The MTN Group says it will implement a mandatory vaccination policy for staff in South Africa and other major operating markets from January 2022.
It comes after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Sunday reported 11,125 new cases, representing a 23.8% positivity rate, and taking active cases to around 83,500 – the bulk of which are in Gauteng.
The telecommunications company, which employs around 6,000 people in South Africa, said that the new vaccine policy forms part of its legal obligations to provide a safe workplace. The policy also recognises the right of employees to apply to be exempted from the policy and/or refuse vaccination on certain clearly defined grounds, MTN said.
For those staff who are not exempt from vaccinations either through risk assessment or agreed exclusions, but who still refuse vaccination, MTN said it will not be obliged to continue that worker’s employment contract.
“The science is clear. Vaccination against Covid-19 reduces rates of serious infections, hospitalisation, and death,” said MTN group president and chief executive Ralph Mupita.
“As an employer, we have a responsibility to ensure that our workplaces are guided by the highest standards of health and safety, and that has informed our decision to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for our staff.”
Mupita said the group’s new Covid-19 policy recognises that some of its markets don’t have adequate access to vaccines. He added that some low-risk roles will be accommodated with full-time work-from-home or alternate arrangements. But this will be a small population within MTN’s workforce, he said.
Both the World Health Organisation and the Africa Centres for Disease Control advocate for vaccines – saying that they are an important measure to protect people. The global rollout of vaccinations since 2020 has clearly contributed to the containment and management of the virus in many countries.
“Vaccine equity continues to be a major issue for African countries. As MTN, we add our voice to the calls for more vaccines to be made available to African countries, as herd immunity will only happen when the whole globe has reached a sufficient level of Covid-19 vaccination,” said Mupita.
“The latest travel bans on African countries by developed nations are not based on science, are unjust and add to the lack of support for Africa that is much needed for an effective global response to the pandemic. African countries are being punished for the very transparency that’s actually needed to successfully combat the impact on lives and livelihoods of the Covid-19 virus,” he added.
MTN has operations in 21 countries, mostly in Africa including Ghana Nigeria, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Botswana. The group had a total of 19,295 employees at the end of the 2020 financial year.