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Gerhard Papenfus and Jaco Swart of the National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa) talk about a topic being discussed around a number of boardrooms around the world – mandatory vaccination. The topic has come under intense scrutiny since Adrian Gore, founder of Discovery, said that all 10,000 strong of the conglomerate’s workforce would be required to be vaccinated. This violates an individuals freedom of choice, says Papenfus, who strongly encourages employers to take a different approach. Gore has followed the lead of many international corporates as businesses around the world look to get its employee base back to the office. Besides violating a persons freedom of choice, Papenfus goes a step further and states that mandatory vaccination is morally incorrect. – Justin Rowe-Roberts
Gerhard Papenfus on Neasa’s stance on mandatory vaccination:
Well, that’s the second time we’ve communicated on this issue and we’ve also made our position very clear previously – I think this is very relevant. We can no longer remain quiet on this. I just want to emphasise that this debate is not about whether the vaccine is a good or a bad thing. I mean, that’s an entirely different debate. And we don’t want to go into that debate. We simply are not equipped to do that. We all have our opinions and there are two sides of the story. But now at this stage, it’s about the exercising of the individual’s freedom of choice. And we want to alert those associated with us and even beyond that, that this is our opinion that that right needs to be respected. So, we had to come out and say, this is our position. This is a very divisive issue. And I think if this is not going to be treated properly, then this might tear this country and businesses apart. We are really divided into two camps on this issue. The sooner we take this out of the debate, the better. You can be pro vaccination and still respect somebody else who doesn’t want to do it and vice versa. So we think, take this out of the debate and we advise employers not to engage in this, do not go down this path.
On whether this encroaches on individual’s freedom of choice:
That’s our position. There’s a certain obligation in terms of the Health and Safety Act, but I think an employer can get around that without eventually dismissing an employee that refuses to vaccinate. You can do it without allowing a person to lose his or her job. We cannot expect people to make a decision whether to have a job or get vaccinated. That is wrong. This is something that’s never happened in the history of the world. I mean, it reminds me of the one child policy of the Chinese. And when you were pregnant, you were forced into an abortion. I mean this is immoral. We cannot do that. There are many questions around that. And if there is uncertainty, well then just respect it. The Bill of Rights makes provisions for religious opinions and beliefs. It can fall into any of those categories. People hear certain stuff and they have a view on this. If we do not stand firm on this issue, we might just find ourselves in future being faced with similar choices, but on different issues. I think this is a time where we need to stand firm – all of us – as a country, that we cannot go down the path where we force people to make these kinds of decisions.
On Adrian Gore’s decision of mandatory vaccination at Discovery:
That drags us almost into the debate or discussion whether the vaccine is a good or a bad thing. My view is that the whole thing has been over-exaggerated. I had Covid myself. I’ve been through this and somebody has said, ‘Well, then you don’t have a problem. You have sufficient natural immunity.’ I said, ‘Well, that solves my problem, but it doesn’t solve others’ problems.’ But I differ directly with Adrian Gore on enforcing your employees to take the vaccine. I think this can tear companies apart. It’s going to break down the relationship between employees. I say respect each person’s views and accommodate them. That’s the best you can do.
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