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Dear SA calls on Thulas Nxesi to set aside proposed workplace vaccine regulations

05 May 2022 - 14:00
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. File photo.
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. File photo.
Image: GCIS

Citizen network group Dear SA has called on employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi to set aside workplace regulations that could be used to force employers to impose mandatory vaccine policies at the risk of incurring criminal sanctions.

The organisation said unless the regulations are withdrawn and reconsidered in their entirety, it reserves the right to take the matter to court.

Dear SA legal representative Daniël Eloff said SA appears to be tilting in the opposite direction of reversing or suspending vaccine mandates by attempting to mandate vaccines using other legislative tools.

“Furthermore, given the widely circulated reports that a very large percentage of South Africans already have immunity to Covid-19, due to having been previously infected, the mandating of vaccination at this stage of the pandemic is even more questionable,” said Eloff.

The organisation said the code of practice, which took effect on the lapsing of the national state of disaster, was an attempt to replace the state of disaster regulations with a system of permanent workplace measures under the guise of health and safety.

“This will allow the minister to evade the legal and political consequences of a mandate by plausibly passing the blame to employers — a deplorable devolution of power to employers that is the antithesis of good governance and accountability. Employers then run the risk of legal consequences for failing to enforce mandates on workers,” said Dear SA.

“The code of practice will infringe numerous rights, including the right to privacy, the right to bodily integrity, the right to trade and occupation, as well as the rights to freedom of religion, belief and opinion.”

On Wednesday, the health department extended the deadline for public comment on the proposed regulations by three months.

Health minister Joe Phaahla gazetted the extension shortly before the interim measures were due to expire.

Phaahla said the extension, to July 5, is in line with statutory requirements and will afford the department sufficient time to go through and consider all comments and representations on the regulations.

“Despite the current process to source public comments on the health regulations,” he cautioned, “there is still an imperative to provide options to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and other notifiable medical conditions without invoking the state of national disaster.

“Covid-19 remains a life-threatening disease, and the country is not yet out of the woods.

“The only way we can protect ourselves and our loved ones against this pandemic and the current rising number of positive cases, is through vaccination and adhering to preventive measures at all times. Fully-vaccinated people are urged to consider booster shots to increase their immunity.”

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