NEASA’s Gerhard Papenfus: there are better pandemic-fighting options than mandatory vaccines

NEASAs chief executive Gerhard Papenfus joined BizNews founder Alec Hogg to discuss a hot topic: mandatory vaccines. Expropriation without compensation and a number of other concerns facing South African business are things NEASA has taken head on, Papenfus says the issue of mandatory vaccines is probably one of the toughest battles he’s been involved with. “Our debate is freedom of choice. I think we have the overwhelming support of businesses. We’ve had two resignations, out of thousands of members.” Papenfus also discusses what would possibly prompt a large company to enforce mandatory vaccines. “There’s no room for a blanket approach in this.”

Gerhard Papenfus on NEASA

NEASA has got a very broad constituency; many employers with a couple of thousand employees. We’ve always been in a fight. The South African labour environment is a difficult environment for business. The environment isn’t pro-business. It is a battle. I think SMMEs worldwide are battling [and] on two fronts. They are battling legislation, red tape. They also are in a battle with monopoly capitalism.

On mandatory vaccines

We have been in a fight on many fronts. Expropriation is a big deal. It affects our members, so we play in that area. All these battles aren’t won by one role player. It’s many role players adding their voice and you need to be seen to be engaged by your members. That is what we do. 

Mandatory vaccination, the entire issue, is one of the toughest battles I’ve been in. [With] the other battles, our members have got a united front in negotiations. There might be differences between them on what we do, but it’s not fundamental differences. In this issue, there are differences. If you’re a member organisation, you need to make a call. You cannot stay out of the fight. Some demand you say [something] and what happens is that you come out and express a particular view. There might be criticism, and one only hopes your organisation is strong. 

If I look at the support I get, I’d say, by far, the majority support our opposition [against] mandatory vaccines. We’re very clear, we’re not playing into the area of whether the Covid-19 vaccine is good or bad. I am not a doctor; when you engage in that debate, that will become the focus and that’s an endless debate.

Our debate is freedom of choice. I think we have the overwhelming support of businesses. We have had two resignations out of NEASA from thousands of members.

On why a company would implement mandatory vaccines

Let’s take smoking in the workplace as an example. I’m very much in favour of people saying you shouldn’t smoke in the workplace. We know inhaling smoke is [dangerous]. Businesses say you can’t do that and I say, “But there is a place for you to smoke. Go and sit there, smoke and come back.” I’m okay when people say, don’t smoke in the office; that’s fine. Do I  – if I’m not vaccinated and you are  – put your life at risk?

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