Umm Muhammed Umar
The National Economic Development and Labour Council, better known as Nedlac, has firmly placed its support behind making the COVID vaccine mandatory. This was announced at the Council’s 26th Annual National Summit. Nedlac says it believes public gatherings should not be open to unvaccinated people, while businesses should only allow vaccinated employees access to the workplace. Nedlac Executive Director, Lisa Seftel, spoke to Radio Islam.
Seftel said that lockdown as a mechanism to curb the spread of COVID-19 has had so many negative ramifications for our country, for jobs, for income generation and so on, while there is sufficient evidence, both internationally and locally, that vaccinations are an effective measure to mitigate lockdown, and to enable some level of normality to return to society. Since the beginning of 2021, the covid vaccine has been promoted. However, South Africa’s vaccination rate as a country is low. Seftel said, “And as we face new variants and possibly futures new variants, they really felt that we need to get vaccination rates up.” She added, “And one of the ways of doing this, an important way of doing this, is to create incentives and disincentives, to vaccinate, and a disincentive not to be vaccinated.” That was the motivation behind pressuring government to make it a strong obligation on employers to consider mandatory vaccination to ensure that their workplace is safe, and to consider amendments to regulations, for big sporting events, and cultural events, so that only vaccinated people be allowed to attend those events.
Nedlac does not view mandatory vaccinations as an infringement of basic human rights as set out by the South African Constitution. Seftel claimed, “it is about enhancing the rights of workers in workplaces, as well as those that visit a workplace, whether it is a contractor or whether they are clients. However, there is a debate about it and there is anxiety.” Seftel added that Business Unity South Africa has indicated that it would, in 2022, when they find an appropriate case, be approaching the Constitutional Court for clarification on this matter. She conceded that there were grounds, which could be reasonable for people to indicate that they do not want to be vaccinated.
There is a general belief that President Ramaphosa would impose stricter lockdown regulations when he next addresses the nation, with concerns about the impact on the country’s economy. Seftel said that there was a high degree of anxiety, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors. She said that there have been significant curfews, bans on alcohol and so on, “And then there’s the travel bans and all that is creating enormous stress in the tourism industry. And the social partners say, let’s say by summer, let’s get vaccinated.”