Uproar over vaccine passport leads to plans for mass protests

The posters for the planned anti-vaccine passport rallies are being widely circulated on social media. Picture: Twitter

The posters for the planned anti-vaccine passport rallies are being widely circulated on social media. Picture: Twitter

Published Sep 14, 2021


Johannesburg - Calls have been made for a protest against Covid-19 vaccines after President Cyril Ramaphosa remarked that further information on an approach to vaccine passports is coming soon.

Ramaphosa on Sunday announced plans to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports”, ahead of the easing of lockdown regulations and the shift to lockdown level 2.

In the televised family meeting to the nation, Ramaphosa emphasised that vaccination was the country’s most potent weapon to fight against the coronavirus pandemic and to restore the economy to full operation and create jobs.

“We will also be providing further information on an approach to ‘vaccine passports’, which can be used as evidence of vaccination for various purposes and events,” Ramaphosa said.

The president’s remarks came amid vaccine hesitancy and distrust of the vaccines and of the South African government, among other reasons.

Following Ramaphosa’s remarks, several South Africans took to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the plans for “vaccine passports”. Some social media users even took it so far as to compare vaccine passports to a “dompas” and the Apartheid Pass Laws Act of 1952 that required black South Africans over the age of 16 to carry a pass book, known as a dompas, everywhere and at all time.

“Imagine if we had to ask those who are HIV positive to walk around with proof they're taking medication because they're ‘a threat’ to society? We’ve overcome these stigmas that segregated us,” Twitter user @Mtoleezy wrote.

“Vaccine passports: For now we’re talking businesses, concerts, stadiums. Soon people will be evicted if they can’t produce a vaccine passport. This is only the beginning. Are you seeing it yet?” Brandon October wrote.

Soul singer and composer Amanda Black also joined the conversation regarding the vaccine passport plans and questioned where the South African Human Rights Commission was on the matter.

“Imagine calling healthy people sick. If you are not vaccinated you are considered sick? No guys, please attach the science that says that and make it make sense after that,” the actress added.

Some people were also calling for a protest against the possible plans for a vaccine passport.

“It’s time to rise the #VaccinePassport are here. Let’s put down the keyboard and be at these venues. Vaxx or not vaxxed your freedoms are being taken slowly” (sic), Lonwabo Mfundisi wrote in a caption among local posters for global demonstration the World Wide Rally For Freedom.

“On Saturday, September 18, the People of the International Freedom Movement in more than 40 countries around the world will be taking to the streets in defence of their fundamental Human Rights,” the organisation said in a statement last month.

The movement, including members in South Africa, is advocating for the end of lockdowns, the end of mask mandates, the prevention of mandatory vaccines and “coercion”, the return to standard international and domestic travel, and the end of all state of emergency declarations.

“We see that the coronavirus is rapidly becoming a new religion of fear and is being invoked to justify tyranny using the same repressive mechanisms of state control over dress, language, and social interactions that have been used historically in past theocratic regimes. We will push back against this Religion of Fear with our message of Freedom,” the movement said.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has confirmed that the Department of Health has begun the process of introducing digital vaccination certificate.

“This initiative is in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated vaccination certificates. Through this, WHO is attempting to standardise vaccination proof all over the world so that it cannot be defrauded,” said Phaahla.

Phaahla emphasized that the digital certificate would be protected from fraud and would be accessible on smartphones.

All vaccinated persons whose have details appear on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) will qualify.

He made it clear that public services would be still accessible to those without vaccine passports. “The certificates may be useful for access to entertainment, sports and other events.” | Additional reporting by Sinenhlanhla Zungu