Members of the Namibian Defence Force are threatening to take the government and the defence ministry to court over mandatory Covid-19 vaccination imposed on them.
The soldiers have started an online petition that will be handed over to president Hage Geingob next week.
In the petition, they are demanding an immediate stop to the mandatory vaccination of members of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF).
“As per the Namibian Constitution, our human dignity is violated. It is now evident that our Constitution is not honoured either. Stop the mandatory vaccination of military personnel as this will bring chaos in terms of the violation of human dignity, not limited to other ministries and other workplaces,” the petition reads.
Most soldiers who this week spoke to The Namibian said their commanders did not inform them about the mandatory vaccination.
“We have not received communication on it yet,” said a soldier based at the Rooikop army base at Walvis Bay.
As a result, some NDF members are calling on minister of defence and veterans affairs Frans Kapofi to explain the need for mandatory vaccination.
A circular dated 29 September sent by defence chief Martin Pinehas ordered the compulsory vaccination of all members of the NDF as of that date.
In the circular, Pinehas told soldiers to choose from the available vaccines so that the NDF could reach herd immunity.
Members of the Namibian Navy this week indicated they have no intention of being vaccinated against Covid-19.
Former leading seaman of the Namibian Marine Corps Andemale ‘Kassie’ Shikongo says Pinehas’ move to invoke Section 81 of the Defence Act of 2002 is shameful.
Shikongo was discharged from the military last October for his participation in the local authority elections as a candidate at Walvis Bay.
He says the act is shameful as many soldiers have died from Covid-19 and the ministry did not offer them any assistance in protecting themselves during the first and second waves of infections.
“They failed to give us immune boosters or vitamins when there was no vaccine. They only gave us masks, and we all followed the worldwide regulations,” Shikongo says.
The Namibian this week reported that the army chief blames the low vaccine uptake among soldiers on “exaggerated propaganda” and “misplaced concerns” over vaccines.
“General Martin is not a medical scientist and medical practitioner. How can one in the middle of confusion and panic order people to be vaccinated in the absence of real concrete and reliable information about all the vaccines and the possible implications they may have? Very sad,” Shikongo says.
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He, however, applauds Pinehas’ exemption of those with pre-existing conditions, allergies, and hypersensitivities.
On Sunday, Kapofi defended Pinehas’ decision.
“I don’t think there should be a failure to comply, it is common sense to get vaccinated. The soldiers should adhere to their commander’s communication,” he said.
Kapofi said although there is no set punishment for failure to comply, the hope is that every member would get vaccinated.
“I was attacked by Covid-19 myself, and I know what it does. Despite the stories out there, it is the right thing to do. The aim is to have everyone vaccinated,” he said at the time.
Pinehas said soldiers would not be exempted based on religious, philosophical and personal beliefs.
Various communiques seen by The Namibian show that some commanders have already started ordering their members to get inoculated, and the chief of defence expects regular reports.