BY CLIFF CHIDUKU/NQOBANI NDLOVU
A SHOWDOWN is looming between the government and its restive workers after the Public Service Commission (PSC) yesterday announced that all civil servants who have not been vaccinated shall not be allowed to report for duty and will be deemed to be absenting from work.
In a statement, PSC secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe said: “In line with the said Cabinet decision, all civil servants should be vaccinated without delay and unvaccinated members shall not be allowed to report for duty and will not be deemed to be working
“All heads of ministries are, therefore, urged to make arrangements for all civil servants under their jurisdiction to be vaccinated, and to explain to any who elect no to be vaccinated that they will not be deemed to be working.”
This comes as State workers and teacher unions yesterday vowed to challenge the directive by Cabinet, which they say was unconstitutional.
The directive to bar unvaccinated workers from reporting for duty comes days after the High Court overturned a government directive to bar unvaccinated congregants from attending church services.
In a post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet resolved to reinstate the ban on unvaccinated congregants while also barring government workers that are yet to be inoculated from reporting for duty.
The announcement has attracted an angry response from public workers, teacher unions and analysts who accused the government of “deliberately undermining the law” in violation of their “constitutional rights”.
Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions secretary-general David Dzatsunga argued that the directive needed to be arrived at only after consultation, adding that the union was engaging the government on the matter as a matter of urgency.
“Our view is that decisions of that nature need to be a product of consultation between workers and employers so as to avoid disharmony,” Dzatsunga said.
“There should be a clear national vaccine mandate that derives from consultation at the level of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) or Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) so as to avoid victimisation of individuals who may have objections.”
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) and Zimbabwe National Teachers Union (Zinatu) were in agreement that the government needed to invest in educating workers on the efficacy of vaccination instead of employing command directives.’
“The move by the government is unconstitutional and will be challenged politically and legally. The attempt to coerce workers will be radically resisted,” Artuz president Obert Masaraure said.
Zinatu chief executive Manuel Nyawo said: “We will not allow the wanton and unwarranted criminalisation and victimisation of our members by a jurisprudential Cabinet that deliberately twists and undermines the law to meet its selfish ends in total and blatant violation of our constitutional rights.
“The case as to whether or not vaccination should be compulsory is what was before the High Court and justice was dispensed in protection and defence of the people’s rights, all workers included.”
PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said the announcement was “at best a fantasy, and at worst ill-conceived and unfortunate.”
“Fundamentally, the government’s approach is not also the best way to encourage people to be vaccinated. Rather, the government must invest in explaining the efficacy of vaccination,” Zhou noted.
But there was discord among the unions, with the Zimbabwe Teachers Association of Zimbabwe (Zimta) saying the move was the best strategy to persuade civil servants to be inoculated.
“We should have taken this position earlier on, at the start of the vaccination programme,” Zimta chief executive Sifiso Ndlovu said.
“This is the most appropriate strategy to address a situation which is of an emergency in nature. So, it may not be the best persuasive method of all, but it is the best method of working for public health security.”
Government is targeting vaccinating 60% of its 15 million population by December and has been angling towards enforcing mandatory vaccination.
The vaccination programme has also been extended to the 14-17 years age group.
As of Monday, 2 856 955 people had received first vaccine with 1 894 780 having taken their second jabs respectively.
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