By Mark Anderson in London

 

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has castigated the European leadership, urging them to stop treating Africa as they did during colonial years.

Ramaphosa told other heads of African states meeting in West Africa, Dakar, Senegal early last week how he was deeply disappointed by the panic reaction of Western countries which immediately imposed travel bans on a number of Southern African countries including South Africa upon hearing of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron.

Ironically it was the research work done by a Zimbabwean scientist Dr S Moyo based in Botswana.

For his transparency the whole of Southern Africa has faced a blanket ban.

An angry President Ramaphosa showing signs of self-control used the West Africa meeting to deliver his rebuke of the Western world and called for respect of African states and not treat them as in the colonial years.

“After the Omicron variant was announced, I was due to travel to West Africa and travelling in the wake of Omicron I received calls from four Presidents,” said Ramaphosa

They were anxious to know if the South African President was coming or not. They definitely wanted him to be in Dakar Senegal in a few days. “I said we are coming together with journalists from South Africa,” he said amid applause from the audience.

 

 

“Before I left I also got some calls from Europe and the calls were so paternalistic ‘Hello President Ramaphosa, we’ve heard about this Omicron I’m sorry to tell you that we’re banning travel to Europe from South Africa and Southern Africa’. No discussion, no attempt to hear what our views are.

I’m saying that the relationship needs to be mutually respectful.

“We need to respect one another. The African presidents respected me as we respect one another. But from Europe I just a message, we’ve banned travel. Thank you. Goodbye. See you next time,” said Ramaphosa.

He said that’s not the way to conduct relationships adding there was need to have a consensus.

“We have made a proposal supported by 100 countries. It comes back to what the youths were saying, they want a continent that will help develop their skills where they can thrive.

“But what we want, we want to be able to make our vaccines and we will deal with the issue of reluctance. We want to make vaccines, we don’t want to fill and package which is what we are being offered.”

The South African President said there had been offers for packaging drugs in his country but he preferred to do more, making vaccines.

“We said no, we want you to release the intellectual property rights for a while so that we can make the drugs because we have the capability and there are quite a number of countries on the continent that can.

 

 

“And right now we got countries like Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya. They have the capability. We want go beyond getting the substance from Europe and packaging, we want to make the vaccines that’s intellectual property rights,” said Ramaphosa.

African youths will then see that there is a future for them, they will not go to Europe or USA, but stay here in Africa. Currently the North is saying so the packaging and that’s it which was not the case.

“No, you did that long time ago when you colonised us and when you raped and pillaged our countries, we’re saying no now. We have the capability we want to make these things ourselves,” said Ramaphosa amid laud cheers and applauses.

He said “we want to deal with” Europe, North America on a respectful basis. Africans were respectful and maybe that’s why Africa was colonised. “Because we respect too much, we are saying respect us as well.”

Africa needed to improve its health systems he pointed out rejecting the notion that because the continent had a poor health delivery system it could not make vaccines.

Ramaphosa said Covid-19 had made Africa aware that it should move forward to improve the health services. It should not be conditional, the continent would improve in this area hence it was able to deal with Covid-19 because every crisis yielded its benefits.

“We’re coming up with various methods to improve our health systems, the second task was economic recovery and thirdly integration of the continent. There was also the whole process of industrialisation and building a manufacturing base but this where the North look down on us.

“We are building infrastructure, the infrastructure that you are seeing here in Senegal is phenomenal,” said the President.

South African scientists were the first to identify the variant, which has since been detected in countries around the world. It has now emerged that Omicron was already present in Europe before the travel bans were announced. It’s still not known where Omicron originated.

 

 

“We are all concerned about the new Covid variant and owe South Africa’s scientists our thanks for identifying it before anyone else did,” Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera said in on Facebook on Sunday. “But the unilateral travel bans now imposed on Southern African Development Community countries by the UK, EU, US, Australia, and others are uncalled for. Covid measures must be based on science, not Afrophobia.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this week that southern African nations that first detected the omicron COVID-19 variant had been collectively punished with travel restrictions which he described as “travel apartheid”, and he urged “common sense” to respond to the new variant.

“What’s unacceptable is to have one part of the world — one of the most vulnerable parts of the world economy — condemned to a lockout when they were the ones that revealed the existence of a new variant that, by the way, already existed in other parts of the world, including in Europe, as we know,” Guterres told reporters.

 

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