Gareth Cotterell
2 minute read
14 Sep 2021
1:37 pm

Ex-DA MP Phumzile Van Damme calls out party for ‘pandering’ to anti-vaxxers

Gareth Cotterell

DA leader John Steenhuisen says mandatory vaccinations will infringe on people's rights.

Phumzile Van Damme. Picture: Gallo Images/Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) former MP Phumzile Van Damme has labelled the party “irresponsible” after its leader John Steenhuisen appeared on eNCA and said they would not support the government making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory.

Van Damme recently launched the 2021 Local Government Election Anti-Disinformation Project, with partners including Right2Know Campaign and Code For Africa.

The project aims to tackle the spread of misinformation on social media platforms before and during the upcoming local government elections.

While acknowledging that Steenhuisen’s remarks were not disinformation, Van Damme did call them irresponsible.

“It emboldens those who refuse vaccination and endangers lives,” she tweeted.

She added that while the DA had been at the forefront of pushing for South Africans to get vaccinated, the party’s stance against mandatory vaccinations is “pandering to the anti-vax vote”.

Van Damme said the DA often pandered to the anti-vax community, which she called “largely right wing and loud”.

“I know this from experience. It has of late turned against the DA because of its pro-vaccine stance.”

In the eNCA interview, Steenhuisen said mandatory vaccinations would infringe on people’s rights, adding that if someone does not want to get vaccinated, it’s their personal choice.

“I’ve had the vaccination and we believe that getting people vaccinated is the pathway to getting the country back to normality… but I think we need to be very careful when we start talking about mandatory vaccinations because I think it gets people’s backs up. I don’t support that and I don’t think it’s constitutional either,” said Steenhuisen.

ALSO READ: Van Damme joins anti-disinformation project ahead of elections

“I think government would make a terrible mistake if they were to make vaccines mandatory because then they will be infringing on people’s rights.”

“What government needs to do is start upping its communication strategy around the efficacy of the vaccine and why it’s important to vaccinate. I think that they’ve allowed far too much space, particularly on social media and other platforms, for people who are peddling fake news around vaccines to prevail.”

This comes a few days after Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said the provincial government was discussing whether it should introduce a mandatory vaccine policy for its staff.

“It is a complex conversation, it is an interesting and a difficult conversation, but it is definitely a conversation that we are having as a government,” said Winde.

ALSO READ: Western Cape in talks over mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations, says Alan Winde

While there have been calls recently for the government to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy, it has previously said getting a Covid-19 jab was a choice and it would not be introducing any law to make vaccines obligatory.