Zimbabwe has ordered all government workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, or lose pay if they refuse. But one of the largest government worker groups is resisting compulsory vaccinations, while another is calling for compliance with the directive.

Monica Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s Information minister
Monica Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s Information minister

After a cabinet meeting late Tuesday, Monica Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s Information minister, told reporters that the government was concerned about a continued increase in Covid-19 cases in the country.

“In light of the continued rise in Covid-19 cases, cabinet approved the following: the decongesting of both public and private sector workplaces. In taking the lead, government has further reduced its workforce to 25%. Priority will be given to the vaccinated personnel; two, that the courts of law be opened only for remand and urgent cases; and three, that all civil servants should be vaccinated and those that fall ill without having been vaccinated will not be entitled to the Covid-19 insurance,” Mutsvangwa said.

Robson Shereni, head of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, says the directive must be defied.

“We are saying the vaccination program should be voluntary, no worker should be forced to be vaccinated. Government must put more effort to actually on availing information on people getting vaccinated. That is the priority that the government must focus on. Rather than to force workers getting vaccinated,” Shereni said.

Sifiso Ndlovu, who heads the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, said the government’s drive to inoculate all its workers is a noble one.

“The nation is faced by an emergency situation which can turn out to be catastrophic if exigency measures are not taken to protect the masses from exposure to infection. This decision, therefore, to encourage civil servants and to motivate them is taken on a balance of scale to protect the lives in our nation and we want to encourage all our compatriots to take up vaccination as one of the measures to control this contagion,” Ndlovu said.

About 1,247,000 Zimbabweans out of a population of 14 million have received their first shot, and nearly 650,000 have received their second inoculation since the program started in February.

Shereni said the union will file a lawsuit if vaccines become mandatory.

“If the government of Zimbabwe insists with the command approach on implementing the vaccination program towards the workers of the government of Zimbabwe, we will definitely stop the process by going to the courts to seek justice in this process,” Shereni said.

Zimbabwe has 88,415 confirmed coronavirus infections and 2,747 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the global outbreak. The government says, with an intensified vaccination program, the numbers will not keep going up.