Sandu and SANDF lock legal horns over COVID-19 vaccinations


Whether due to apparent administrative tardiness or other not stated reasons, the healthcare service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) faces legal action after it came to light that uniformed medical personnel are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccination as per government’s Sisonke programme.

The legal action is going to be brought by the country’s largest military trade union – Sandu (SA National Defence Union) – long a thorn in the side of the national defence force for its handling of, among others, the 2009 Union Buildings march by disgruntled soldiers.

Announcing its latest legal action against the SANDF, Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of the Pretoria-headquartered trade union, said it was sparked by “public disavowal” that SAMHS healthcare personnel are eligible for the National Department of Health (NDOH) vaccination initiative for public sector health workers.

According to Greeff the “public disavowal” came from the SA Medical Association (SAMA) whose head, Dr Angelique Coetzee expressed the Association’s concern about national defence force health workers. These, a Sandu statement said, are “seemingly being subjected to a political agenda”; “seemingly being exposed to alternative vaccination not approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO)”; and exclusion from the Sisonke programme.

“Sandu notes these comments and withdraws an earlier statement urging SAHMS personnel to register for vaccination with the NDOH.

“The SANDF has no plan to provide vaccinations for SAMHS personnel and Sandu instructed its lawyers to proceed with immediate and urgent legal action.

“The chaotic manner in which the SANDF has dealt with this matter is denounced and remains a national embarrassment and direct threat to the safety of its own healthcare personnel,” Greeff said in the statement.

Earlier this week, TV news channel eNCA reported the SANDF was “in talks” with the Chinese Embassy (presumably in Pretoria) to “buy vaccines”. According to the channel’s Pretoria correspondent details (not specified) “are in minutes of a meeting of The South African Medical Health Services Vaccination Co-ordinating Council”.

At the time of publishing neither the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication nor SAMHS corporate communication had publicly responded to either Sandu or the television report.

There are currently two separate investigations underway into the acquisition of a Cuban-supplied drug (Heberon), not approved in South Africa, for soldiers and other national defence force personnel to use as a COVID-19 preventative. Allegations are quantities of the drug, valued at over R200 million, were “smuggled” into South Africa, bypassing legal requirements. In addition to a three-man task team appointed by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, a request for the Public Protector to investigate the acquisition by Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Kobus Marais has been “identified for investigation”.