By JOY HINYIKIWILE
Rhodes University could face yet another legal challenge to its vaccine mandate policy if University Alliance South Africa (Uasa) stays true to its word.
Uasa has threatened to open a class action suit against all South African universities that insist on implementing a vaccine mandate policy.
The organisation, which comprises students, parents and staff members from universities across the country, gave universities that had instituted or proposed a vaccine mandate policy until the end of Tuesday 8 March to reconsider and abandon their policies.
According to a Business Day report by Alex Patrick, Uasa released a statement through its law firm Stephen G May Attorneys arguing that the policies are “irrational, medically unjustified [and]in any event wholly outdated”. The organisation believes the mandates are “forced experimentation”.
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) has joined the alliance, which claims to act following Section 38 of the Constitution to defend the constitutional rights of those affected by university vaccine policies.
The class action will target universities falling under the following three categories:
- Universities that have already implemented mandates;
- Universities that have stated their intentions to introduce a vaccine mandate policy;
- Universities that are employing coercive measures to increase Covid-19 vaccine uptake.
Rhodes University is amongst South African universities that have instituted a Vaccine Mandate Policy as a condition for students and staff members to register and/or access their campuses this year.
Other universities include the University of Cape Town, Wits University, Stellenbosch University and the Durban University of Technology.
Last week, Grocott’s Mail reported on the dismissal of an urgent application brought by Makhanda Against Mandates to interdict Rhode University’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate roll-out.
After the High Court ruling, the university welcomed the judgement. It affirmed the implementation of its vaccine mandate policy, stating that over 97% of staff members and 95% of students had submitted vaccination certificates.
“Incontrovertible scientific evidence shows that vaccines are safe and are most effective to protect ourselves and others from the severe impact of Covid-19,” the university stated.
Across the country, students in some universities have been showing displeasure at the vaccine mandate policies. Protests ensued at the Durban University of Technology, the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Free State against implementing the policies.
Regarding Uasa’s litigation threat, a member of the Rhodes University SRC said on Tuesday 8 March noted that the council is yet to discuss the matter. The SRC, however, has already released a statement saying it is “in support of all students” concerning the Vaccine Mandate Policy.
“Our objective is to support all Rhodes students, whether they can adhere to the policy or need an exemption,” the member said.
Various public universities have instituted a vaccine mandate policy. The policies apply to students, staff members and individuals wishing to access university premises and attend events. Here is an overview of what the different vaccination policies say:
|Vaccine mandate policy||Exemption grounds||Effective from:|
|Durban University of Technology||Vaccination certificate required for access to campus and university premises.||Provision of 48-hour-old PCR Covid-19 test (self-funded).||1 January 2022|
|Free State University||Access to campus.||“Constitutional and religious grounds.”||14 February 2022|
|Rhodes University||Registration and access to campus.||Medical or other legitimate and justifiable grounds.||1 January 2022|
|Stellenbosch University||Registration; access to campus and university premises.||Not indicated.||Term 2 2022|
|University of Cape Town||Registration and access to campus.||“Narrow medical grounds and on the grounds of sincerely and intensely held beliefs grounded in religion and/or conscience.”||Not yet determined|
|University of Johannesburg||Access to campus, facilities and UJ premises.||“Medical or religious grounds.”||25 November 2021|
|Western Cape University||Access to campus, residences and university events Registration (only for staff and students in Dentistry, Pharmacy and Nursing faculties, amongst others).||“Verifiable medical or religious grounds.”||1 January 2022|
|WITS University||Access to campus and university premises.||Subjection to daily health screening and weekly antigen testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection (Wits will cover costs of those unable to pay for the first few months).||1 January 2022|