Right to bodily integrity must be balanced with right to safe working environment, Ramaphosa tells Cosatu

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
Italy will require a Covid health pass from all workers. File photo.
Italy will require a Covid health pass from all workers. File photo.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

President Cyril Ramaphosa says while the government respects workers' right to bodily integrity when it comes to Covid-19 vaccinations, a balance has to be found between those rights and others' right to work in a safe environment.

“Workers can rest assured that we respect the right to bodily integrity and all other constitutional rights with regard to vaccinations. This is our stance about respecting the bodily rights of everyone in SA.

“However, this must be balanced against the right to a safe working environment, and it is correct to take measures to ensure the economy can reopen in a safe manner that protects all workers,” he said.

Ramaphosa was addressing the first day of labour federation movement Cosatu's central committee four-day meeting, which started on Monday.

“We urge the federation to step up efforts to convince, educate and persuade workers and indeed all South Africans about vaccinations and that they should be vaccinated,” he said.

Ramaphosa said defeating the Covid-19 pandemic remained a priority and that “we must all ensure that we mobilise as many people as possible to be vaccinated”.

He said the ANC and its alliance partners must lead popular vaccination campaigns as they interface with voters during campaigning for the November 1 local government elections.

Ensuring that sufficient numbers of people are vaccinated is the only way to prevent new, potentially more infectious variants from emerging, he said.

“South Africans must stand together to combat the many conspiracy theories about vaccines.

“We must, as leaders, spread the message that vaccines are safe, that vaccines work and are very effective in preventing severe illness from Covid-19.”

Earlier, Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi warned the same meeting that mandatory vaccinations would not work and might distract from the work of convincing every person on the need to vaccinate.

“We cannot afford scandals of people selling vaccine certificates,” she said.

Losi said the labour federation supported the call for every person to vaccinate. This, she said, should be done through education, engagement and persuasion.

She called for the four-day meeting to emerge with a clear call to go out and mobilise every worker and their family and ensure that all have received their vaccines by Christmas.

“We cannot afford to fail,” she said. “We need to engage every member, worker and their family on why this is critical not only to save their lives and jobs, but also their families.

“This is the only way for the economy to emerge safely. We owe it to our health workers.”


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