Now that it is over, what risks remain?

Although certain dominant role players, either as a result of being misinformed, selfish economic interest or fear of embarrassment, persist with their ‘vaccine’-mandate policies, by far the majority of South Africans have seen through this manufactured crisis and have moved on.

Currently, to be ‘fully vaccinated’, requires having received both the original ‘vaccines’ and one booster shot. The fact that only 5% of South Africans have subjected themselves to a ‘booster-shot’, illustrates to what extent South Africans have rejected this forced medical intervention.

This is even more so the case in sub-Saharan Africa, where the ‘vaccine drive’ simply did not take off. Incidentally, Africa is also the continent least severely hit by the Covid predicament.

Now that the Covid-19 threat is over, except for those companies that, for whatever reason, still attempt to squeeze the last remaining benefit from the scheme, what risks remain to companies that applied mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations? This question is raised because some companies have been, and still are, enforcing a mandate that is not aligned with the South African Constitution.

In our view, the following are the risks: 

  • there is a significant and serious legal risk for employers that did not follow a rational process. We appreciate the fact that, initially, information had not been available on the impact of Covid-19 and the associated treatments, but still, the burden is upon the employer to prove the need for a blanket mandatory vaccination policy;
  • reputational damage will in future be difficult for companies to repair, especially large companies with prominent brands, as the general public and employees will most certainly remember any form of tyrannical conduct and insensitivity and all psychological and physical harm brought about by unlawful and illogical decisions. “Harm one, harm all” is the perception that will remain in the memories of employees and the public at large; and
  • for various reasons, the business continuity risk cannot be discarded, most notably the employer-employee relationship that has suffered, with all its consequences. No need to elaborate on staff morale, distrust, and retention if the long-term effects of a blanket vaccination policy become visible over time. 

NEASA has access to a comprehensive risk assessment and, based on a rational analysis, has found that the benefit does not outweigh the risk. Upon reflection, valuable decision-supporting information is available and the continuation of such policies cannot be defended.

And now that the dust has settled, wrongdoings of employers are clear to see, and excuses will not turn back the clock. Employers that have implemented mandatory policies without reason are now at risk.

Did a business make a commitment to enforce a policy that Government itself is reluctant to enforce? Or is there a lack of will to stop an irrational process? What are the drivers of this irrational policy? At some point, all of this will have to be explained.

The time for those who persist with a mandatory vaccination policy has run out. It is time to ‘man-up’, admit to mistakes, and move on. There is simply no other way to recover from this.

By Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers' Association of South Africa (NEASA).