COSATU statement on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s updates in the fight against COVID-19 

COSATU statement on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s updates in the fight against COVID-19 

29 November 2021 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s updates in the fight against Covid-19. The Federation welcomes government’s decision not to impose further restrictions on the economy.  The economy is battling its deepest recession in living memory, unemployment is at an all-time high of 44% and millions of workers have lost wages.   

The retail, hospitality and tourism sectors which employ almost 2 million workers cannot afford another festive season under lockdown. COSATU is disappointed that government did not reduce public gatherings numbers from the 750 indoors and 2000 outdoors.  These should be reviewed and only allowed for events where the necessary vaccinations, health and safety measures are put in place. 

COSATU welcomes the President’s establishment of a task team to investigate, engage and propose the modalities for requiring vaccinations at public venues.  This is a conversation that South Africa needs to have as a matter of urgency.  

Vaccines have been proven to be highly effective and safe.  They are free and accessible.  They, along with wearing masks, sanitising and social distancing, are the only weapons to defeat this pandemic which has taken the lives of more than 90 000 South Africans. 

The economy and workers cannot afford continued lockdowns.  The Unemployment Insurance Fund cannot continue to bail out the economy.  

Government and the healthcare sector have done well to dispense over 25 million vaccines to more than 40% of adults or 25% of society.  But we have not made sufficient progress in educating, persuading, and mobilising all persons to vaccinate.  More must be done in this regard.  This includes deploying mobile vaccine units to every shopping centre, workplace, taxi rank, train and bus station, church and mosque, township, informal area, rural town, and village. 

COSATU is pleased with the efforts of its Affiliates to mobilise workers and their families to vaccinate.  These have shown positive results.  The response from our members has been overwhelming.  Teachers, nurses, doctors, paramedics, clothing, and textile workers, mine workers, police and prisons officers amongst others have responded in their numbers.  Many of these workplaces have vaccinations rates above 65%. 

COSATU welcomes the engagements various universities have held with their workers and students, who have also responded positively on the need for everyone to vaccinate.  

We must equally be honest and realistic and accept that these measures alone are not enough.  We now need collectively as society to engage on requiring vaccinations to enter public spaces, malls, restaurants, events, sports etc.  COSATU has received many complaints from retail workers, prison wardens and teachers who have vaccinated and fear for their safety as some of their colleagues have not vaccinated. 

The Constitution, the supreme law of the Republic is clear that the right to life is absolute.  No other right may threaten it.  Vaccines are central to ensuring the right to life is protected and persons who have not vaccinated pose a serious risk to others, including those who have vaccinated.  Individual choice and minority rights cannot be at the expense of majority rights, let alone the right to life.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act places a legal obligation upon all employers to ensure that their workers and their customers are safe.  They can be held legally liable for failing to do so.  

Vaccinating is critical to showing solidarity to our health workers who have carried this nation on their shoulders and have paid a heavy price in lost lives for it.  Health workers deserve better.  They deserve to be shown respect by every single member of society.  Failing to vaccinate is placing the lives of these health workers at risk.  It is the height of irresponsibility and should no longer be accepted. 

There will continue to be variants, especially if vaccine numbers remain low, eventually a variant will breakthrough and threaten the lives of the entire nation.  The world will continue to treat South Africa as a global health risk and impose lockdowns on travel to us, if we fail to ensure we reach 90% vaccination levels.  

Any restrictions going forward must be imposed on those who fail to vaccinate.  Those who vaccinate must be allowed to move on with life.  Incentives and rewards should be used to encourage everyone to vaccinate. 

COSATU is ready to engage government on the modalities to ensure that everyone is vaccinated.  Workers’ lives depend on it and we cannot afford to let workers down. 

Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)   

Tel: 011 339 4911
Cell: 060 975 6794