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Universities in SA have been warned to scrap vaccine mandates or face litigation. Picture: FILE/BLOOMBERG
Universities in SA have been warned to scrap vaccine mandates or face litigation. Picture: FILE/BLOOMBERG

The Universities Alliance SA (Uasa) has demanded that universities reconsider and abandon their vaccine mandate policies by the close of business on Tuesday. If this is not done, the alliance said it would be left with no alternative but to engage in litigation. 

In a statement issued on its behalf by Stephen G May Attorneys, Uasa said the policies are “irrational, medically unjustified [and] in any event wholly outdated”.

Numerous universities implemented vaccine mandates in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Uasa, which is made up of students, parents and staff from universities throughout SA, is acting with the African Christian Democratic Party. Both are acting “in terms of section 38 of the constitution ... to defend the constitutional rights of affected people at universities through various means, including, if it cannot be avoided, through litigation”.

The attorneys said the stance adopted by both parties has nothing to do with an “unscientific outright rejection” of vaccines generally.

However, they believe the mandates constitute forced experimentation.

“Requiring staff, students and other stakeholders to receive into their bodies experimental Covid-19 vaccines that are not historically tested and acceptable attenuated vaccines. And requiring individuals to present proof of vaccination by Covid-19 vaccine to access university campuses and to continue with studies and work, alternatively to be subjected to discriminatory constraints.” 

According to the statement, Universities SA, an umbrella organisation comprising 26 public universities, endorses these mandates.

Uasa said they are targeting universities falling under three categories:

  • Those that have already implemented mandates;
  • Those that have stated their intentions to introduce mandates; and
  • Those that now have no intention of implementing any such policy “but are nonetheless employing coercive measures to increase Covid-19 vaccine uptake”.

Uasa said it has engaged in consultations with several universities where it identified critical legal, procedural and scientific shortcomings.

“From these consultative attempts, it would be readily apparent that our clients’ stance ... [is] a grave reservation about the present mandates, which rob those people affected by them of, inter alia, their right to choose, which itself is an affront to their dignity.”

The statement threatens a group application to the Constitutional Court rather than bringing action against each university. 

“Both our clients expected that universities in SA, having taken months in many instances to formulate their mandates under the now historical Delta variant, would have followed the evidence closely and the effect of the Omicron variant, more especially given that these Covid-19 vaccine mandates constitute drastic and unprecedented measures which encroach on a raft of human rights, not least of which are the rights to human dignity, bodily integrity, education and fair labour relations.

“Evidently this has not been the case, demonstrating a complete lack of good faith and intention to comply with the constitution and in the interests of human life.”

The parties allege:

  • Universities have not undertaken to take responsibility for vaccine injuries or death;
  • The mandates discriminate against less affluent students as they cannot afford the weekly Covid-19 tests, which is an alternative to vaccination in many of the mandate policies;
  • The denial of vaccine injuries and even death is not only obtuse but morally reprehensible; and 
  • Universities have failed by not taking into consideration the drastic effects of the mandates on emotional, mental and physical health.

TimesLIVE

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