News / Own Your Life

Narissa Subramoney
Copy rewriter
4 minute read
24 Oct 2021
4:01 pm

Traditional leaders and pastors lobby people to get their Covid jabs

Narissa Subramoney

Traditional leaders have blamed fear among men and misinformation for low vaccination rates in their communities.

Inkosi/chief Patric Sphamandla Khumalo and Prof Thami Myeza, Archbishop and Chancellor for Vineyard Bible and Theology College.

Religious and traditional leaders across the country are coming together to help the government achieve its desired 70% population immunity by December.

While the vaccination pace is picking up, it is still far below the required 70% mark for life to somewhat resume to normal next year.

Inkosi Patrick Sphamandla Khumalo of Amantungwa tribes in Utrecht in rural KZN said he watched his neighbour die of the disease.

The traditional leader said the couple, who were his neighbours were taking care of their grandson and they died within a week of each other.

“They tested positive for the disease and were isolated. I learned of their deaths when their grandson started begging for food,” said Khumalo.

Khumalo said he got his jab in an effort to encourage members of his community to follow suit. He said Zulu men in particular were extremely reluctant to get vaccinated. “They are scared the vaccine will make them get erectile dysfunction, so we need the government to come here and explain to them the dangers of this disease.”

Traditional leaders and pastors lobby for people to get their Covid jabs
Inkosi/chief Patric Sphamandla Khumalo of Amantungwa tribes in Utrecht in rural KZN gets his vaccination.

Sugar daddies and the virus

The Utrecht area is extremely impoverished and Khumalo said the lack of high schools in the area has created the ideal grounds for older men to prey on young girls.

Most of the young boys who don’t finish high school end up working for white families in neighbouring suburbs, according to Khumalo.

He said the area’s “sugar daddy” phenomenon had led to high HIV infection rates among young girls and older men. “Covid-19 affects the immune system and it’s important for people living with HIV need to get vaccinated,” Khumalo stressed.

“When youngsters finish grade 7, they have to relocate to the townships if they want to continue high school. Their parents or caregivers often can’t afford that,” said Khumalo. These “sugar-daddies” offer to pay their rent in the townships and buy them necessities for school or luxuries like airtime and data.

ALSO READ: Namibia stops using Sputnik V after SA raises HIV infection concerns

“These are the men that are scared to vaccinate because they don’t want to lose their libidos,” stressed the chief.

Khumalo had accompanied department officials to the Utrecht taxi rank in a bid to improve vaccine reach, but out of hundreds of men at the rank, only 19 of them allowed health workers to administer the jab.

“Zulu men are stubborn, they won’t seek medical help for anything unless it is very serious,” he said.

Khumalo is also concerned about the small businesses that didn’t survive the pandemic. He said these companies had provided employment for the villagers. He wants villagers to get vaccinated so businesses can pick themselves up in a post-Covid world.

“Right now, there’s probably only 11 % of people who are vaccinated, the government needs to come here with another strategy,” said Khumalo.

Khumalo also called on the government to penalise those who spread misinformation because this is one of the main contributing factors behind low vaccine rates in rural KZN.

Pastors join traditional leaders to encourage people to get vaccinated

Archbishop and Chancellor for Vineyard Bible and Theology College in the Amajuba District Municipality, Prof Thami Myeza .

Archbishop and Chancellor for Vineyard Bible and Theology College in the Amajuba District Municipality, Prof Thami Myeza said he has lost his brother, aunt and church to the virus.

Both tested positive for Covid and suffered from comorbidities, including diabetes. “It’s very painful, I have lost friends, neighbours and church members,” said Myeza.

He said he makes sure to spread the word during his sermons and preaches the benefits of the vaccines every Sunday.

Myeza has been to a number of villages including Utrecht to spread the word. “Now that it’s opened up for youngsters, we must encourage them to get vaccinated, said Myeza.

“Wherever we go, we stress to the congregants that Covid is not something foreign, but it is here with us. We need to defeat it by getting vaccinated,” said Myeza.

Myeza said misinformation was their biggest headache. He said people were afraid that they would die six months after getting the jab.

“Don’t gamble with your life, when people are telling you stories and theories about Covid, you can’t sacrifice your life for rumours,” said Myeza.

Myeza reminded people that death is a part of life. “Leaders like Shaka Zulu and Mandela have died it’s true. But you don’t need to if there is a way to prevent you from getting very ill,” said Myeza.