Tuesday, January 31, 2023

BDF officers fired over refusal to take Covid-19 vaccine

An undisclosed number of Botswana Defence Force officers and staff members have been fired for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19, as mandated by the BDF Act.

A number of soldiers who pleaded religious objection to the Covid-19 vaccine among them a lawyer have been fired for refusing to take the jab.

Sunday Standard has turned up information that under a mandate set by the army command BDF officers and staff members were given until June 2022 to show proof of vaccination or they would face termination.

Reports indicate that some of the officers and staff members had objected to the mandatory vaccination on medical grounds. While the army considered some of the applications and exempted the applicants from mandatory vaccination, those who claimed that they did not want to be vaccinated on religious grounds had their applications rejected.  

“Those who objected on medical grounds were referred for further medical examination while those who objected on religious grounds were shown the door,” sources said.

The army is said to have developed a mandatory vaccination policy because it was of the view that its officers were aware of a section in the BDF Act that lays out the basis for mandatory vaccination.

Asked to comment, the army was non-committal. “The Botswana Defence Force acknowledges receipt of your enquiry wherein among other you enquire about the mandatory COVID 19 vaccination of service members in the BDF and whether any member has been dismissed from the Force on the basis of their refusal to vaccinate,” BDF spokesperson Stephen Moshagane stated.

He added that, “please note that issues of staff separations under any conditions remain internal and purely administrative and cannot be discussed with the media or any third party.”  

Moshagane explained that, “Notwithstanding that, in accordance with Section 143 of the BDF Act, 2018 all uniformed members of the BDF are by law required to vaccinate when required to do so.”

“Any disregard of this section by a serving member of the BDF who is subject to the BDF Act constitutes an offence against the Act which may be tried accordingly,” he said. Sources indicated that this position was communicated orally to service members in the army. “Majority of those who were affected are those that had cited religious beliefs as the basis for exception.”

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