BY LORRAINE MUROMO
GOVERNMENT yesterday reversed its earlier position to fire all unvaccinated civil servants yesterday, saying the order will only become effective at the end of the year.
This was revealed by Public Service minister Paul Mavima who told NewsDay that the order would only affect civil servants who deliberately avoided vaccination.
Last month, government issued Statutory Instrument 234 of 2021 to bar unvaccinated civil servants from reporting for duty and gave them until last Friday to get jabbed or be fired.
“The policy will be implemented as per the letter of the law in respect of those who have deliberately avoided vaccination,” Mavima said yesterday.
“Those, who have not been vaccinated due to factors that are not deliberate on their part, will have until December 31, 2021, to be vaccinated.”
The move to “fire” unvaccinated workers irked labour unions, which accused the government of infringing the constitutional rights of its employees.
Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions secretary-general David Dzatsunga said government was yet to communicate the new position to its workers.
“It was pronounced without consultation. We have a feeling that the consultations should have been inclusive. The employer should have consulted its stakeholders,” Dzatsunga said.
“As it stands, the situation on the ground indicates that workers were not even aware of what was expected of them. We can only wait for official communication. At the moment, we haven’t seen anything to that effect.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said some teachers had not reported for work following government’s directive to bar unvaccinated workers from reporting for duty.
“They had been advised by their respective school heads, but we have advised them to go back to work tomorrow (today) unless they receive a communiqué in writing,” Zhou said.
He said some of the reasons why civil servants were not vaccinated included chronic illnesses, pregnancy and lack of access to vaccination.
“Our members will continue to go to work unless headmasters officially produce a communiqué in their names.”
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Japhet Moyo condemned the government stance on firing unvaccinated workers and withholding their salaries.
“We are aware that the unions that are organising with the Public Service Commission are crying foul. There is a current law that requires an employee to get an official letter citing termination of contract. We haven’t yet heard of anyone that has been affected. We are still waiting to see if the government will carry out the threat. We are against that, as you are aware, we once took private companies to court over forced vaccination. We are waiting to see if there will be people affected today (yesterday),” Moyo said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said: “The government of Emmerson Mnangagwa is being reckless as usual. We have a serious challenge where no one wants to work for this government which is underpaying (its workers). Teachers are leaving the profession en masse. Our government has ceased to be a competitive employer.”
Masaraure said the mandatory vaccination policy was fuelling vaccination hesitancy among teachers, adding that government should take the blame for threatening civil servants.
“It is because of the government’s threats that civil servants have chosen not to be vaccinated. If they go on to carry out their threats, what they are simply doing is cripple social service delivery and crippling their own government.”
Masaraure said the union would use all forms of resistance at its disposal to resist the government order.
“We will take to the streets and courts ensuring no one will be victimised because people need to be convinced that they need to be vaccinated.”