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Address by the Deputy President, H.E. David Mabuza, at the launch of the vaccination social mobilisation campaign “Return to Play – It’s in your Hands”, FNB Stadium

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Programme Director,
Premier of Gauteng Province, Mr David Makhura,
Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Deputy Minister of Health,  Sinongiseni Dhlomo,
MEC of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Ms Mbali Hlophe,
MEC of Health, Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi,
Mayor of the City of Joburg, Cllr Jolidee Matongo,
Vaxx Ambassadors,
Head of the Health Working Group at Business for South Africa, 
Dr Stavros Nicolaou,
Distinguished Guests,
Members of the media 
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today, we are honoured to be joined by leaders in business, sport, and the creative sectors in our society in a collaborative partnership to encourage and mobilise our communities to vaccinate. As we navigate the tribulations and devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are inspired by the voices and messages from our artists, our sporting heroes and heroines, as well as leaders of various sporting bodies and cultural organisations.

In unison, they are all calling on everyone to vaccinate.

We have partnered in our collective commitment to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic by ensuring that we reach out to our communities through the Vaccination Social Mobilisation Campaign that we are launching today.  Our call-to-action to every South African is to vaccinate to reduce the rates of infections, hospitalisation and deaths. 

If we are to revive our vibrant creative industries, return to theatres and stadiums to play and enjoy sport and entertainment, it is important that our vaccination programme is accelerated to reach as many people as possible. 

We have no doubt that, with the active participation of leaders and practitioners in the creative sectors and sport, we will reach every village, every suburb and every street corner to get South Africans vaccinated.  

As part of this social mobilisation programme, we must reach out to educate communities about the benefits of vaccines, and dispel myths and the spread of fake and untrue conspiracy theories about vaccines. In that way, we will ensure that we eliminate vaccine hesitancy and save more lives in the process. 

As a country, we must contribute to the global fight against Covid-19, and revive sport and creative industries to contribute to economic recovery and reconstruction.   
The onset of Covid-19 brought about unprecedented pain and hardships across the globe. It decimated lives, and disrupted global supply chains, trade and the free movement people due to imposed lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Here at home, our response to containing the spread of Covid-19 infections necessitated the implementation restrictions that impacted on the economy as a whole, while ensuring we save lives. 

The restrictions related to entertainment and sporting venues have made it difficult for some of our artists to sustain themselves. With limited fiscal resources from government, no amount of support could be enough to compensate for the negative impact of Covid-19 on sustainable incomes and livelihoods. While government made contributions to lessen the negative impact on incomes, we are under no illusion this dealt with all the problems that the creative sectors faced.

We commend the commitment and resilience of our artists, and the creative sector as a whole, for supporting government efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and prevent the loss of lives. It has been tough, but worthwhile. 

Sport is pulling through a difficult period, having to adapt to the changing environment engendered by Covid-19 protocols.  Our athletes have persevered and managed to participate in sporting activities despite Covid-19 related challenges. Our Olympic teams did their best under these trying conditions. 
We thank, and congratulate them for performing national duties under the current circumstances.

Collectively, we need to continue to manage the delicate balance between saving lives, and opening key sectors of the economy to revive and sustain jobs and livelihoods. The creative industry and sport economies are key our economic recovery and reconstruction. Such recovery means opening opportunities for all those involved in the value chain of the sector, either through transportation and selling of merchandise outside stadiums. 

The war is not over. The raging pandemic continues, and it will be part of our lives for years to come. We must adapt to live our lives alongside this pandemic. 

The World Health Organisation informs us that, as of the 6th of September 2021, globally there have been more than 220-million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including more than 4-million reported deaths. At the same time, a total of more than 5-billion vaccines had been administered worldwide.

Like every country across the world, our path to saving lives and economic recovery depends on the accelerated roll-out of our vaccination programme to reach required levels of population immunity. 

For those countries who have reached population immunity, including the United Kingdom and Germany, normalcy is returning as they are now able to attend the sporting and cultural events of their choice.  In the process, there are positive impacts on their economies.

As South Africa, and Africa as a whole, we have a long way to go to reach levels of vaccination that allow us to follow suit. Clearly we have to do more to turn around this situation of vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination sentiments due mainly to fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

The social mobilisation campaign that we are launching today must assist us to ramp up our vaccination programme to reach a required target of herd immunity so that we are able to open sport and entertainment venues. 

Our artists, athletes and leaders in sport and creative sectors are called upon to be flag-bearers in promoting Covid-19 vaccinations and mobilising the whole of society to get vaccinated. They are the embodiment of hope, resilience and force of unity to get all our communities behind our national vaccination programme. 

A ‘Whole of Society Approach’ to Saving Lives and Livelihoods

As you would agree, Covid-19 is a common enemy that requires a common vision and a common response. It is a pandemic that requires a ‘whole of society approach’ response. All of us, in our various capacities, must play our part.

Since the first Covid-19 related deaths were reported on 28 March 2020 in our country, we have lost more than 83,000 people to the pandemic and more than 2,8-million have been infected with the virus thus far. 

Our collective response has been encouraging to administer more than 13-million vaccine doses to more than 10-million South Africans. More than  6 million South Africans are now fully vaccinated. Of course, we still have a long way to go to reach 40-million people so that we reach population immunity. This is a critical milestone to strive for, if we are to confront and survive the anticipated fourth wave.    

Without a doubt, in addition to non-pharmaceutical measures, vaccines are the only available antidotes to decisively deal with the Covid-19 pandemic that has negatively affected people’s lives and livelihoods. 
Vaccines remain our hope to unlock the country and ensure that the creative industries and the sporting economies return to some normality.

If we so desire to return to stadiums, to theatres and arenas, to concerts and to fashion shows, it lies within us to go out and mobilise for the vaccination of our communities.
Vaccines Save Lives

A vaccinated nation is what it will take to once again open the stadium for the popular Soweto Derby; a Vaccinated nation is what it will take to open the Cape Town Jazz Festival, the Macufe and other prominent music events in our calendar; and indeed a vaccinated nation is what it will take to open the Durban July and other similar events.

These events are important to the life of our economy. By inoculating through these Covid-19 vaccines, we can address the worrying number of unemployed youth in the economy and the market whose prospects for employment continue to be affected by us not opening all these events and activities offered by the creative sector.

We therefore are grateful to the sports people and artists who have put forward their names to be ambassadors of the vaccination messages.  Your patriotic act is commended.

As government, we will continue to work our scientific community, and ensure that our decision-making processes are on empirical science, which states clearly that vaccines save lives. Our decisions to promote and champion vaccines are based on proven scientific data, which confirms that:

• vaccines reduce infections,
• vaccines reduce the chance of severe disease,
• vaccines reduce hospitalisation and
• vaccines prevent deaths.  

Secondly, being inoculated against the coronavirus and reaching population immunity has tangible economic spinoffs for the sportspeople, for artists, for fashion designers and models, for actors and for events and hospitality related activities. 

Sports and the arts are about audiences, and without audiences, these sectors will not function and contribute meaningfully to the economy.

We continue to focus on working with experts, healthcare workers and scientists to dispel dangerous myths about Covid-19 vaccines. We will go to communities to deliver vaccines and bring vaccination sites to the people.

Taking the vaccines is a moral and ethical responsibility of individuals to protect themselves and to protect their fellow citizens in the workplace, at school, at home and in recreational areas.

Taking vaccines against Covid-19 is no different from the immunisations that all children undergo to treat and prevent common diseases such as measles, polio, smallpox and chickenpox.

Therefore ladies and gentlemen, why should we refuse vaccines meant to save our lives and meant to ensure we rebuild and reconstruct our economy!

We urge all of you to challenge and dismiss those who perpetuate unproven myths and conspiracies about vaccines.

Let us join this campaign so that we are able to vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population, since vaccines are the only sustainable way to begin to take some small steps towards fully opening the economy and filling the stadiums, sporting arenas and theatres.
Together, we can get out of the present challenge and move towards vaccinating 40 million South Africans by 30 December 2021 in order to reach population immunity.

Our key message is that vaccines save lives. The full re-opening and recovery of our economy will depend on our ability to accelerate our vaccination programme.

It is in our hands. It is possible if we all work together, driven by a sense of unity and patriotism.

Thank you very much.