Johann Rupert, recognized as South Africa’s second richest man, confirmed on Friday that he had received a vaccine against Covid-19 at a private hospital in Switzerland, but was “not involved” in the process of getting the appointment.
Rupert did not receive any calls, but responded briefly via a courier service to Moneyweb inquiries, after the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger stated on Friday in a report that it became the first group of people to be vaccinated in Switzerland on December.
The move has sparked outrage in Switzerland (and Friday morning in South Africa), with Rupert being accused of using his influence to jump to the head of the queue even before the launch of the vaccination campaign in Switzerland.
According to Tages-Anzeiger, Rupert received the vaccination at a hospital in the town of Frauenfeld owned by the Hirslanden group, which in turn is owned by Mediclinic International, which is listed on the JSE.
Remgro, Rupert’s own JSE-listed investment group, has a significant stake in Mediclinic. The Swiss newspaper reported that Hirslanden had secured a provincial contract to deploy the vaccine in the Swiss region of Thurgau, of which Frauenfeld is the capital.
In his response to Moneyweb, Rupert noted that “my doctor arranged it” (in reference to securing a dose of the vaccine).
When asked about the accusations of jumping in the queue to get the vaccine, he replied, “I wasn’t involved in the appointment, my doctor set it up.”
He added: “There were many before me … I have also been paying for Swiss health insurance for over 30 years.”
Rupert, who is the founder and current president of Swiss-based luxury goods giant Richemont and listed on the JSE, explained that he has been a Swiss taxpayer since the beginning of Richemont 31 years ago.
“[I am] over 70 years and [have] comorbidity recognized by Swiss law, “he said, noting that in Switzerland” they [vaccines] they are already in Zurich from next Monday with healthy children aged 55 ”.
Read: The Chinese luxury goods market is rising Richemont
He defended his decision to take the vaccine, noting, “The Richemont executive committee decided in December that all management would be vaccinated as soon as possible.”
He said the measure was aimed at “setting an example” to the rest of Richemont’s colleagues, adding “many of whom were worried / scared / doubtful about the vaccines”. However, he stressed that “vaccination is an individual choice.”
“Richemont has about 10,000 employees in Switzerland alone, most of them [of whom are] in factories. Another +/- 4,500 works for the vendor, ”he noted.
“If customers don’t feel safe entering our +/- 3,500 store stores around the world, what will happen to jobs in Switzerland?” added.
“We need the herd’s immunity as soon as possible so that the world can avoid mass unemployment and chaos,” Rupert said.
South Africa has not yet begun its vaccination process against Covid-19, with the first stage being restricted to front-line health workers.
Mediclinic hasn’t commented on the fuss yet. However, the Swiss newspaper mentions in its story that Hirslanden confirmed that Rupert received the vaccine in December.