The Bazezuru community has vowed to defy a government directive that compels people to take their children for immunization.
In the past, the BaZezuru community has been at loggerheads with the government as they refused to submit their children for immunisation.
The Public Health Bill, which was recently passed by Parliament, calls for penalties for parents who fail to take their kids for immunization. It is feared that the move will tighten screws on BaZezuru who are against child immunisation.
The bill, once enacted, will force parents to take their children for immunization. A Pastor at the African Gospel of God Church, Jewero Majana, says his community was never consulted when the bill was drafted.
He says their religious beliefs and cultural norms are against the immunization of their child. He indicated that the way the proposed law is crafted will disadvantage them. He is worried that they were not consulted about the move.
“In our culture, we have never vaccinated. We have our own culture and our lifestyle. The issue of vaccination is not new to us and we will not take our children for vaccinations. Our church does not allow us to vaccinate our children,” added Majana.
One of the Bazezuru women who spoke on condition of anonymity indicated that she will not take her children for immunization, saying she will rather pay the fine. She stated that the government should also respect their culture.
However, the Assistant Minister of Health, Gaothaetse Matlhabaphiri, said that the issue of immunization is for the purpose of public good.
He emphasized that they could not fail to administer immunization because a certain number of people are against it. He indicated that everyone should take her/his children for immunization for the purpose of public health.
The child health clause in the bill states that a parent of a child shall not refuse to present his or her child for immunization.
The bill also states that a parent who fails to take his/her child for immunization would be breaking the law and might be liable to a fine not exceeding P5 000 or imprisonment of a term not exceeding 12 months.
It further warns that a parent of a child resident in Botswana shall, as from the date of commencement of the Act, have vaccination records in his or her possession as proof of the vaccination status of that child.