Cape Town - Political parties, NGOs, business groupings and trade unions are divided over the government’s proposal to introduce mandatory vaccination and access restrictions for unvaccinated people, following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
At the same time, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) is set to hold emergency meetings this week to discuss how to increase workplace jabs and limit access for those people who choose not to toe the line.
Business Leadership SA chief executive Busi Mavuso said: “I support the introduction of vaccine mandates by employers, both to keep those who are vaccinated safe while at work, and to increase pressure on others to get vaccinated.”
Black Business Chamber secretary-general Mntuwekhaya “Khaya” Cishe said: “We are aware that the government has got a responsibility to protect its citizens, however they should ensure that they do not break the Constitution because that would set a very bad precedent.”
Business for South Africa chairperson Martin Kingston said: “We need to rapidly move to a situation where only vaccinated individuals should be allowed to travel in buses, taxis and aeroplanes, or to eat and drink in indoor establishments, such as restaurants and taverns.
“This is in line with global restrictions and based on the science regarding this airborne disease.”
African Christian Democratic Party president Kenneth Meshoe said mandatory vaccination would be discriminatory and amount to the “dompass” of the apartheid era.
“What has made mandatory vaccines suddenly so urgent? How can making vaccines mandatory stop citizens from being vulnerable to new variants, when the president, at the same time, admits that it is unknown how effective the current vaccines are against the Omicron variant of Covid-19?” he said.
Al Jama-ah party leader Ganief Hendricks said: “Mandatory vaccinations will have constitutional muster, but people must have a choice.”
Federation of Unions of South Africa general secretary Riefdah Ajam said the federation endorse the government’s plans, as the current national vaccination rate – of just over 24% – was still a long way off from the 70% target.
NICD acting director Prof Adrian Puren said that while the severity of Omicron had yet to be determined, the public should be cautious and reconsider attending events that may become super-spreader events.