’Omicron travel red lists dominated by African countries borders on racism’

An airplane

Political analyst Prof Barry Hanyane says the numerous South Africans alleging racism in the travel red lists imposed following the discovery of omicron variant are not off the mark. File PictureAn

Published Dec 9, 2021


Pretoria – President Cyril Ramaphosa, during his recent four-nation tour of West Africa, has been vociferously critical of the travel red list imposed by the United Kingdom and other countries following the detection of the Omicron variant in South Africa.

Nigeria has been added to the UK's travel red list, joining a list made up of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, eSwatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.

The Nigerian government has been vocal in slamming the "travel apartheid". Being on the controversial red list means the only people allowed to enter the UK from these countries are UK or Irish nationals or UK residents.

Arrivals from red list countries are required to enter hotel quarantine – at their own expense – and isolate for 10 days.

South African social media users have raised questions on why African nations, some with no recorded cases of the omicron variant, have been speedily added to the travel red list – while some nations outside Africa with confirmed cases are not on that list.

Many Twitters users in South Africa have accused the countries which imposed the travel bans of racism.

The World Health Organization has announced that the omicron coronavirus variant is now present in at least 57 countries. South Korea has reported a record number of new Covid-19 cases.

Speaking to Independent Media, respected political analyst Professor Barry Hanyane said the travel ban was imposed on South Africa out of panic, without the backing of proper scientific consideration.

“The narrative that went out, that the variant emanated from South Africa, would have best served the purpose that Europe had nothing to do with this dreaded disease and yet, we know for a fact that the Dutch, for instance, had prior cases before South Africa. They chose to be silent over the prospect of being transparent and accountable, which would have provided a sense of awareness and alertness on a global scale,” said Hanyane.

“They missed the bus there. At the same time, it was deliberate in that it would then make Europe, or certain parts of the western world look good in the eyes of global observers who, by and large, would want to believe that Africa must be blamed.”

Hanyane said it should be borne in mind that the narrative of scape goating Africa “was projected well by the former US President Donald Trump”.

“In his public attacks towards China, he wanted to characterise the pandemic as a Chinese pandemic. He kept saying we are sitting with a Chinese virus. But circumstances do not understand political borders, and so is this virus. It doesn’t understand issues of race, gender, and demographics,” said Hanyane.

He said banning travel from South Africa would make it easy for the same restrictions to be imposed on fellow African countries.

“That is 2-0 to the Western countries, although the global economy is likely to suffer because of such decisions,” said Hanyane.

He said the people contending racism through social media are not off the mark.

“I think it (the racism) is complemented by geopolitical positions, which also brings with it the element of history. Historically, super powers would want to enjoy their power to veto. Look at the G20 countries. From time to time, South Africa gets invited to be part of the discussions. That is just to appease the rest of the developing world and the third world,” said Hanyane.

“If you go back, people like (former Zimbabwean president Robert) Mugabe and others have openly challenged that status quo. But again, it amounted to nothing than feeble public pronouncements and attacks.”

Hanyane concluded that as long as Africa remains divided, the status quo would not change.