UJ students protest at Auckland Park campus against vaccine mandate

UJ’s vaccine policy requires all staff and students to be fully vaccinated to gain access to all its campuses and facilities.

Students protest at the University of Johannesburg’s Auckland Park campus against the institution’s vaccine policy. Picture: Masechaba Sefularo/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - University of Johannesburg (UJ) students have on Thursday staged a protest at the Auckland Park campus in Johannesburg against the institution’s vaccine mandate.

UJ’s vaccine policy requires all staff and students to be fully vaccinated to gain access to all its campuses and facilities.

Students have until the end of the month to get fully vaccinated or risk de-registration.

Students said this violated their right to bodily autonomy and called for the suspension of the mandate.

The university said it had to balance the individual right to bodily integrity, freedom of religion, belief or opinion against the collective right of the university community to health and safety when deciding on its COVID-19 vaccine policy.

Simon Maluleke is one of the students protesting against the policy: “Even our Constitution does stipulate that each and every person in South Africa has a right to choose voluntarily, to give consent whether they want to be injected or not. The UJ policy undermines those rights.”

UJ is one of several tertiary institutions, including Wits and the Durban University of Technology, that have instituted mandatory vaccination policies in preparation for the return of staff and students to campuses.

The university has denied claims that it's using scare tactics to implement its COVID-19 vaccine mandate at its campuses.

Student Semi Oketunji said UJ management was using students' fear of being booted out of their respective courses to force them to get the jab.

“This seems like scare tactics, and they are using people's fear of being de-registered and not having access to education to force them to vaccinate."

However, UJ senior director for student affairs Godfrey Helani said that the university had not taken a punitive stance as students were able to apply for exemption on medical or religious grounds.

"But if we are left with no choice and it is risky to the lives of people, including those who do not want to vaccinate, I think we will have to take decisions that will save students' and workers' lives."

Meanwhile in KZN, the Durban University of Technology said students who did not want to vaccinate could access online learning.

This was after images of students camping outside its Steve Biko campus went viral as they claimed they were denied access to their residences because they weren't vaccinated.

Similar to UJ's policy, DUT said unvaccinated students would have to produce proof they were COVID negative if they wanted to access the campus.