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President Cyril Ramaphosa didn’t brutally shock us on Sunday night when he briefed the nation on the newly discovered omicron coronavirus variant and the steps being taken to combat it.
He didn’t send us into lockdown, he didn’t take away our booze and, by and large, we can still gather in quite large crowds.
But what he did say was that the time for pussyfooting around stubborn and misguided anti-vaxxers is drawing to an end. He did not, as many are claiming, backtrack on his original promise some months ago that vaccines will not become compulsory.
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He said there will be vaccine mandates… which is a very different thing from forced jabs.
Vaccine mandates mean that public places and events will be closed to those who are not vaccinated.
In other words, the anti-vaxxers will still retain their constitutional right to bodily integrity – the one which they so vehemently accuse the government of planning to remove.
They will still have the freedom of choice they so passionately support. However, choices have consequences…
Sure enough, vaccination mandates may impinge on other human rights as outlined in our constitution – such as freedom of association and freedom of movement.
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Yet, the point being missed – perhaps deliberately – by many arguing that mandates are unconstitutional is that our human rights are not absolute.
Few of the critics have read further into the constitution than the human rights guarantees. Had they done so, they would have encountered Section 36, which states that these rights may be limited.
Provided “the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom”.
A health emergency is just one such incidence where it is reasonable and justifiable to limit the freedoms ofthose who refuse to carry out their obligation to the rest of society.