A group of mostly British anti-vaxxers are trying to create a permanent commune off the coast of southeastern Africa – their plans include chartering vaccine-free flights, building a health resort, and hiring chefs and crypto experts to help run their paradise.
The Telegram channel is led by Liberty Places Ltd, self-described as a Zanzibar-based property investment firm that has written online newsletters explaining their plans for a “private beach estate” in Zanzibar.
Throughout the pandemic, tourists have descended on Tanzania due to their lax border and coronavirus-mitigation policies, fuelled by the COVID scepticism and conspiracy-sharing legacy of the country’s former leader, President John Magufuli.
Magufuli, who is believed to have died from COVID, denied the severity of the virus, refused to publicly acknowledge positive cases in his country and rejected vaccines, calling them “dangerous”. His stance led to many foreigners spending extensive periods of time in the country, where, as VICE World News reported last year, “ignorance is bliss.”
The group’s Telegram channel has over 750 subscribers, where they give travel advice and are advertising for a list of jobs that will be needed to run their anti-vax haven, which includes a TV presenter.
It is not the first community of anti-vaxxers to consider moving off-grid and setting up their own collective. VICE World News has reported several instances, from a group in Atlanta asking for funds to set up their combat-training, chess-teaching community to the UK’s Sovereign Citizens trying to set up their own schools.
But Tanzania, where only 1.5 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated, is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for anti-vaxxers as COVID-19 regulations grow tighter in Europe.
Although current President Samia Suluhu Hassan has formed a COVID task force, plans to publish the country’s infections data, and has encouraged Tanzanians to wear masks, health regulations around the country remain lax.
“We sought out a place where the civil liberties we used to enjoy and take for granted would be cherished,” the owners of Liberty Places Ltd wrote in a newsletter. “Zanzibar fit the bill perfectly: a tropical idyll, free from meddling bureaucracy, where we could create self-sufficient estates that would provide genuinely sustainable living.”
The group praises Zanzibar for not implementing “mask mandates, social distancing measures or lockdowns, nor has it enforced any requirement for mandatory vaccines.”
“Although we can’t legislate for the Tanzanian government, it seems increasingly unlikely that the kind of restrictions other countries are hobbled by would be enforced here,” they added. “Some higher-end, European hotels on the island have put independent mandates into place, though these seem to be enforced rather sleepily - we’ve found it’s fairly easy to politely affirm your right not to comply with these measures.”
On their Instagram page, they have also shared villas for “living alongside like-minded sceptics with full facilities and ocean views from £1,000 PCM.” A Twitter account they run has over 38,000 subscribers.
Yet for all the talk of building their anti-vax utopia, an informal poll within the Telegram channel found that just 7 members said they would be travelling to Zanzibar in the next 8 weeks. At least two people have already travelled there, posting holiday pictures, while desperately encouraging others to join them.
Neither WHO Africa nor the British Embassy in Tanzania responded to requests for comment.