Pretoria - Civil rights group AfriForum this week called on President Cyril Ramaphosa not to impose vaccine mandates as it feels that they are unjustifiable violations of personal freedoms.
AfriForum, in a letter to the president, made it clear that it would oppose vaccine mandates if implemented by the government.
On Sunday Ramaphosa said the government had set up a task team that would undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations.
AfriForum said in the letter that it was in favour of voluntary vaccinations, but opposed any forced vaccinations as it infringed on people’s rights.
According to the organisation, international examples have shown that when vaccines are mandatory, this fails and actually achieves the opposite that was intended due to hardened attitudes and the backlash it creates.
In the letter AfriForum highlighted how in an address to the nation in February, the president said: “I want to be clear… nobody will be forced to take this vaccine; I want to repeat, nobody will be forced to take this vaccine.”
He also promised that nobody would be forbidden from travelling to wherever they want to travel to, including from enrolling at school, or from taking part in any public activity if they have not been vaccinated.
“Now his administration is considering doing exactly that. Seeing the president go back on this promise is very concerning,” the organisation said.
“On the basis of the principle of freedom of choice and constitutional right to bodily autonomy, if the government implements vaccine mandates, AfriForum will take the necessary steps to oppose them,” Ernst Roets, head of policy and action at AfriForum, said.
He added that by supporting the proposal, they would open the door for the state to be able to impose something on citizens in the future with which they may have a problem with in principle.
“State coercion is and remains dangerous, regardless of its subject matter, and we should not be giving the government consent to use it in an increasingly expanded array of situations. Vaccine mandates are unjustifiable in a free society,” Roets said.
AfriForum’s stance is that mandatory vaccinations violate the constitutional right to bodily autonomy and will create a further divided society, which could lead to social instability. While it supports voluntary vaccination, it also respects the right of those that choose not to be vaccinated.
AfriForum said “we cannot grant ourselves the power to mandate choices for others regarding their personal affairs and health”.
“It is within this context that AfriForum fights for everyone who decides to be vaccinated without red tape and to have access to vaccines as soon as possible. AfriForum has already launched legal actions to help ensure free access to vaccines.
“However, if the government implements mandatory vaccines, it is on this same principle of freedom of choice that we will take the necessary steps to oppose it,” the organisation said.