Amid rumblings from several groups opposing the mandatory vaccination of soldiers, defence minister Frans Kapofi said the directive is not a punishment but to look after the welfare of the troops.
When asked whether that constituted a violation of fundamental human rights, Kapofi stated it is not about the rights of the soldiers but more on their health and that of others. Soldiers have allegedly started an online petition to stop the mandatory vaccination ordered by the army recently. “We must just accept that is it done for the good of our soldiers – and there is no need to politicise the matter.
I am seeing how people are inciting soldiers to retaliate and defend themselves against their leaders,” he noted while addressing media queries during Friday’s 35th Covid-19 briefing at State House.
Kapofi added: “There are those who are petitioning the President, and I believe they are not soldiers but people disguised as soldiers. The life of soldiers is as-is; you believe what you are told by your commander”.
He said soldiers occupy a special space in society.
They are the only group of people who live in barracks and operate as a group. They are the only ones who are taken care of by the State in terms of meals, uniforms, boots and all the tools they use. “We have deployed soldiers to bury the Covid-19-related or Covid-19 deaths. The burial is conducted by the defence force members, and they do this and return to base. If they are to travel to other parts of the world for training, they are required to meet the standard or health requirements of the country, where they are going,” informed Kapofi. Research conducted by the ministry of justice and recently the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) found there is a provision in the Defence Act 1 of 2002 that specifically provides soldiers to be subjected to compulsory immunisation.
“The law that governs that particular profession makes provision for it. Section 81 of that act (Defence Act 1 of 2002) specifically talks to compulsory immunisation of soldiers,” stated justice minister Yvonne Dausab.
The act states: “Any member of the Defence Force or any auxiliary services, medical service or reserve force may be required to submit to, and if so required must submit to, immunisation or prophylaxis against such communicable, infectious or epidemic illness as may be determined from time-to-time by the prescribed authority”.
Subsection two states such immunisation or prophylaxis may be carried out by means of vaccination or injection with, or oral administration of, the specific prophylactic medicament determined for the purpose by a registered medical officer.
Dausab said the government has not taken a hard stance on mandatory vaccination because initially, there were not enough vaccines freely available to everyone.
“We have a variety of vaccines available and accessible to a large contingent of our society now. Should we take that decision to have mandatory vaccination for all, one would want to make sure the decision is reasonable, proportional and that it takes into account a number of issues,” said Dausab.
She stated if the decision is to be taken, employers, according to the labour act, would be required to consult members of that employment space of the reasons to have their employees subjected to mandatory vaccination. “When we are talking about mandatory vaccination, there has to be some exceptions as well. There are reasons why certain people would not want to be subjected to mandatory vaccination; it could be health reasons, religion and others,” stated Dausab.
She said, with time, the Attorney General would provide the advice that is required to decide the direction the country should take regarding mandatory vaccination.
Namibia’s vaccination campaign has progressed slowly, as misinformation and conspiracy theories are rife.
The campaign had to be temporarily halted in July when the country ran out of vaccines because manufacturers struggled to deliver paid-for vaccines.
According to the ministry of health, only 7.7% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Regionally, as at 13 October 2021, South Africa has fully vaccinated 16.51% of the
population, while Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia have vaccinated 16.3%, 10.4%,
The five Covid-19 vaccines remain mandatory to soldiers and voluntary to the rest of the population until otherwise decided.