After Statistics South Africa revealed the country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 1.5%, Covid-19 vaccinations are viewed as the best tool in preventing lockdowns that would negatively impact South Africa’s economy.
The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) are in favor of making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory. They have said they will support a mandatory vaccination policy that will restrict unvaccinated individuals from public events.
Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi says the mandatory vaccination policy will not mean that employees who chose not to vaccinate will automatically be terminated from their contracts.
He said, “we need to do it within the health and safety direction but also that means there's going to be an engagement with the workers in that particular plant but it must also allow for people to object because some of the people can have legitimate reason”.
Nxesi says whatever decision is taken, it must be within South Africa’s constitution. He said, “people need to also understand that this issue of vaccination is inextricably linked to the issue of the economy. So it's trying to balance the two that's where the debate is”.
The minister adds that it is not only about balancing the rights of individuals versus the rights of many, but is also about protecting the livelihoods of South Africans.
“We recognise that business has to make profits in order to be able to survive for the economy to grow but it can't be above everything else that's why we're talking about the issues of health and the issues of livelihood so it's a balancing act” said Nxesi.
Nedlac Executive Director Lisa Seftel explains that the amount of people who have chosen to get vaccinated have been less than expected. This inturn poses the risk of further lockdowns to businesses which could see many businesses lose revenue and possibly close down.
Seftel says Nedlac has always promoted Covid-19 vaccination, however the emergence of the omicron variant has pushed Nedlac to promote mandatory vaccination.
She said, “after the omicron variant was discovered and announced the social partners really felt that further measures need to be taken to move the dime. And as a result they have been discussing proposals to amend regulations as well as to tighten up the OHS direction to make it mandatory for workers in the workplace to be vaccinated… if a risk assessment requires it”.