By: Kelvin Chiringa/ Rudolf Iyambo
A decision by Letshego to subject its workers to forced Covid-19 vaccination has drawn outrage, with prominent lawyer Richard Metcalfe calling for the boycott of the company by its 73 000-client base.
Letshego has told its staff that anyone who has not received a Covid-19 jab would not be allowed on their premises by February 2022.
The communique has been received with anger, with Metcalfe accusing the management of playing God and stripping people of their fundamental human rights as contained in the constitution of the Republic of Namibia.
“It is a pity that a foreign entity seeks to impose its will on Namibians, when it is here in the country lending out money an exorbitant rate of 17.54% per annum compared to commercial banks and where Namibians are welcoming it. This same entity now wants to enforce vaccinations on employees.
“It must acknowledge that it will accept full liability for any adverse health consequences due to this forced vaccination. You cannot force anybody to be vaccinated. That is the law. If these corporates wish to play God, then it is time that we start calling for boycotts of those who seek to strip us of our fundamental human rights as contained in the constitution of the Republic of Namibia.
“Letshego has a customer base of 73 000 Namibians, of whom some have substantial deposits. Let’s see if we can withdraw all the deposits from them and boycott them from further business. They are not going to call the shots. They will not prescribe us what to do,” said the lawyer.
Unionist Mahongora Kavihuha has expressed that Letshego was “becoming undesirable, ridiculous, completely irresponsible”.
He said there is no way anyone can force people to vaccinate or victimize them if they don’t do so.
“That is what we call forced labour, and that cannot be condoned by any means, and that also could amount to lockout, and for a lockout, there are procedures to be followed, because, by virtue of saying the employees must do this or otherwise they will not enter, it is a lockout first.
“Secondly, it is also could amount to contract dismissal. And we cannot, as a labour movement, allow those things to happen. So, we are calling upon Letshego to reverse that decision, and if they are not doing so, we will talk to our union for them to act,” he said.
Labour research expert Hebert Jauch has said that the latest order from the company will put its workers in a challenging position, especially those who do not seek to be vaccinated.
He said the order implies that they risk losing their jobs.
“That has been coming for a while at Letshego and generally. There was also a debate, should forced-vaccination be taken, given the low vaccination rate?
It’s a controversial issue because of very different views on vaccination and many social media debates that indicated a huge gap.
“Some people are highly sceptical of vaccination. On the other hand, science shows that you are protecting yourself and everyone around you if you are vaccinated. I am not surprised that Letshego is now one of the organizations that have taken the step. Others will likely follow, and of course, we also heard already that they might be challenges against such decisions, and it will be very interesting how the court will voice up the question of individual rights, to choose to take a vaccine or not,” he said.