There was a low turnout at the few churches that reopened on Sunday despite the government giving the green light to all churches to resume in-person services, albeit only for fully vaccinated worshippers.
A countrywide survey conducted by NewsDay on Sunday showed that most traditional churches like the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Reformed Church in Zimbabwe, among others, did not conduct services.
Church leaders said their church members stayed at home since most of them had not been fully vaccinated, while others were still making preparations for full compliance with government regulations.
However, Apostolic sects conducted services in the open throughout the country as their members, including children (who are not eligible to receive the vaccine), could be seen gathered at various shrines without exercising social distancing or sanitising their hands.
NewsDay reported that in Bulawayo, most churches were also closed, while a few that opened their doors for congregants had a handful in attendance.
In Harare, at the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries led by Walter Magaya which usually attracts thousands of congregants, there were no worshippers on Sunday.
Founder of the Goodness and Mercy Ministries, Tapiwa Freddy, also based in Harare, said they would resume sit-ins next weekend.
An opposition politician, Mathias Guchutu, who leads the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats, said the “no jab, no church” directive implies that people should fear the coronavirus more than God. Said Guchutu:
The church has been loyal to the government ever since the pandemic started and has been religiously adhering to the guidelines, but these new measures will be difficult to implement.
Several pastors haven’t yet received their jabs while thousands of congregants are still struggling to get them.
Given the small proportion of the citizens who have been vaccinated, it means in practical terms, churches have not been allowed to reopen.
Obviously, not all that have been vaccinated will be attending the services.
Church organisations, among them the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and the Union for Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches, have said vaccine shortages meant that imposing the mandatory vaccination rule on churches was insincere.