President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday asked the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Reverend Kenneth Meshoe to desist from quoting Bible verses to advance an anti-Covid-19 vaccine (anti-vaxx) stance.
Responding to Meshoe during a question and answer session in the National Assembly (NA), the president said evidence has shown that Covid-19 vaccines are the most effective when it comes to preventing infections, severe illnesses or deaths, adding, however, that people should not be compelled to be vaccinated.
“Instead, we need to use the available scientific evidence to encourage, repeat, encourage people to be vaccinated to not only protect themselves but also to protect the people around them,” the president said.
Ramaphosa pointed out that the country’s occupational health and safety laws pose a challenge to employers who have to strike a balance between ensuring that the workplace is a healthy and safe environment and that all employees are protected, with the Constitutional rights of persons who do not want to be vaccinated.
The Department of Employment and Labour has provided directions and guidelines for employers who intend to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory, Ramaphosa said.
“The implementation of any mandatory vaccine policy must in the end be based on mutual respect which is the respect of the rights of the people, which achieves a balance between public health imperatives, the Constitutional rights of employees and the efficient operation of the employer’s business,” Ramaphosa said.
In his supplementary question, Meshoe accused “totalitarian governments around the world” of taking away people’s God given right to refuse to get vaccinated.
“Emerging dictators are trying to force people to receive vaccines they don’t want to.
“This, we believe, is tyranny that must be resisted by the people of the world,” Meshoe said, adding that it is every South African’s Constitutional right to refuse being vaccinated.
The reverend asked the president whether he was willing to prevent the emergence of a new form of apartheid which would see unvaccinated people excluded from certain areas and activities, or the president is willing to protect people’s Constitutional rights.
Meshoe added that the ACDP is opposed to any proposal to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory.
In response, Ramaphosa said it was important to be cognizant of the reality that Constitutional rights are not absolute but must be exercised in consideration of the rights of others.
“I do not buy into the notion that this is being done by authoritarian, dictatorial governments around the world to force people to be vaccinated,” Ramaphosa said, reiterating that an individual’s Constitutional rights have to be balanced with the rights of the overall community which must be protected against Covid-19.
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