Address by the Deputy President, H.E. David Mabuza on the occasion of the vaccination social mobilisation campaign “Return to play – it's in your hands”, Nelson Mandela Stadium, Gqeberha, Eastern Cape Province
Premier of the Eastern Cape Province, Mr Oscar Mabuyane,
Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo,
Members of the Eastern Cape Executive Council,
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
We meet on this day in the province of the Eastern Cape, which is known for producing and sharing with the world, many legends – be it in art, literature, music, drama, sport and or struggle for freedom and democracy.
It is no coincidence that immediately after the historic local government elections held just last week, our campaign to mobilise society to vaccinate in order to return to play, is held in this province that has in many ways, led the way and contributed to human progress.
The recently held elections, were significant in many ways and were held under extra-ordinary circumstances dictated to by the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our struggle for freedom and democracy was in essence about self- determination and human dignity. Equally, it was about securing and protecting the treasured right to vote for the government of our choice to realise our dreams and aspirations for development.
We thank the people of our country for their continued confidence in the virtue of our democratic project. We are encouraged that South Africans remain firmly committed to building their country and live in freedom.
Even under such difficult conditions visited upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic, the masses of our land still believe in the goodness of democracy as means toward our collective pursuit of development.
The people have in their numbers expressed their will, and gave support to their political parties and independent candidates, as the legitimate representatives of their dreams and aspirations.
That in the middle of the pandemic, the people of our country, young and old, went out to participate in the democratic process of elections through public meetings and mini rallies in their wards, is an expression of a people so determined to pursue a course of their development.
It is this determination and the spirit of triumph that we too, gather here today to energise one another and all those in our communities, who are unsure and maybe even skeptical of the correctness of vaccinating against the coronavirus because it is the right thing to do.
These vaccines are a credible solution based on science to ensure that we are protected and are adequately armed to face the changing coronavirus variant strains.
They are safe and are an effective intervention to lower the chances of serious illness, hospitalisation and death. By vaccinating, we can return our lives to normality and reclaim our basic freedom. Let us dare not disempower ourselves!
The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, extends to all sporting codes and affects all sportsmen and women, artists, creative sector, and those involved in the secondary aspects of the industry like events coordinators, promoters and sponsors.
Athletes, sportsmen and women have had to compete in empty stadiums, and all those who make a living selling outside stadiums and sporting venues, have had their income and means of livelihood negatively affected.
Let us not forget that other countries that have vaccinated enough people and reached the acceptable threshold for herd immunity, have since relaxed restrictions that curtail certain freedoms.
They are now on the move to rebuild their economies. We too can vaccinate in our numbers and allow for economic reconstruction and recovery, in order to reverse the current situation of high unemployment.
We have to do this, for losing our loved ones is not an option. Losing jobs because companies are closing down due to coronavirus restrictions is devastating. It is within our power to ensure that we fully open the economy so that we save our livelihoods. We have to do this, for we want to return to play.
If anything, these elections have proven to us that we can rise to the challenge and chart a different future for our country. Even in the face of repeated resurgence and frequent mutations of the coronavirus, as this nation we can end its devastation in our country.
The over 2,9 million cumulative cases of infections we have registered thus far, should not grow further to the next million mark. Equally, the number of fatalities does not need to rise further and can be contained through vaccination.
Losing over 89 000 fellow compatriots to Covid-19 is painful to bear and hard to live with. It is in our hands to be legends in our own right by charting a different path for the well-being of our nation.
The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is an all-out war that calls for adherence to all dictates of science. It is fact that every pandemic of a similar nature that threatened human existence was defeated through vaccines.
Similarly, Covid-19 vaccines offer us an opportunity to reclaim our freedom as it was before the pandemic. Together with vaccine ambassadors, artists, celebrities and sporting legends, we stand behind the “Return to Play- It’s in Your Hands” campaign by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture under Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
We do so, for we are convinced that the life of normalcy is possible. Taking Covid-19 vaccines is our ticket to live concerts, festivals and performances in theatres.
All of us must work in partnership across all sectors and win this battle. We also call on the traditional leaders, traditional health practitioners and the religious sector in this province, to join us and work with government in taking the campaign forward.
Just as we have done in the last two weeks waiting in queues at many voting stations across the breadth and length of our country to vote, this too is time to make a choice and play our part of saving lives and livelihoods.
We have since the start of the national vaccination programme, which is now 179 days, administered more than 23 million vaccines to more than 15, 6 million people. We do know that 2.4 million of these doses were administered in this province.
If we are to consider modelling and projections used towards the attainment of population immunity by the end of December 2021, the Eastern Cape should have administered over 3.5 million doses since the start of the vaccination programme.
It is therefore, incumbent on all of us as a people to go to the nearest vaccination site and do what is good for our health, the well-being of our families and the prosperity of our country.
Reaching population immunity should be our biggest motivation to ensure we save our lives, and we avoid a possible fourth wave that may be deadly for the unvaccinated.
We have enough supply of vaccine doses for all categories of adult population. There is no reason to stay away as vaccination days have been extended to ensure access.
For us to win the battle against Covid-19, we must not entertain and embrace fake news. Instead, we should put our health and other people’s lives first. The primary objective of this vaccination programme is to protect lives and not to harm; for the right to life is enshrined in the Constitution.
Under the leadership of the President, we call on all leaders to increase their efforts, at district and local levels across the country and to rally all of society to vaccinate in what is called Vooma Vaccine Weekends.
For the Eastern Cape provincial government, it says we must increase pace, especially here in Nelson Mandela and the OR Tambo Municipalities. We must take the vaccines to the people and talk to them about the importance of vaccination, as well as where to find the nearest vaccination sites.
The creative economy is greatly constrained. Sport is still operating under a tough environment, having to play in empty stadiums due to Covid-19 restrictions. We can change all that by vaccinating and get back to a certain level of normal life similar to pre-Covid-19 pandemic.
The small window that was opened for 2 000 vaccinated spectators during the South Africa and Ethiopia World Cup qualifier, cheered our national team to victory. It is thus possible to have more spectators in the stands to ensure many more victories.
It is possible to return to arenas for boxing games and other stadia for cricket and rugby games. It is possible to go back to Africa’s largest cultural event, the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. All it takes, is for us to fully vaccinate.
Once the population or herd immunity is achieved, we will fully open the economy and ensure that peoples’ livelihoods are secured.
It is all in our hands!