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Justine Stower of University of Johannesburg says bilateral ban, which came after end of sanctions, could damage medical science
South African epidemiologist: Travel ban is ‘outrageous’
A South African health and security expert said a decision by Brussels to ban 21 people – most of them South Africans – from visiting the continent is “outrageous”, and is aimed at undermining South Africa’s economy and health system.
In September, Brussels lifted several travel bans against South Africans following the end of international sanctions imposed over apartheid in the 1980s. But the city’s executive council decided on Wednesday to extend a ban of 100 people.
The move is seen as an indirect response to South Africa’s decision to suspend a visa application process for EU citizens who have benefited from Rhodes scholarships.
Nina Martin, the 21-year-old legal scholar at the London School of Economics who was living in Brussels when the visa restriction was announced, was one of those facing the restrictions.
Some of the banned individuals have conducted research on South Africa’s crime, poverty and health, the city’s executive member in charge of external relations and development, Alfons Minn, said.
Minn said Brussels would not disclose the names of the individuals or publicly speculate as to why the people had been added to the list. He said it had “not come about as a result of criminality or drug trafficking or hate crimes or anything of that sort”.
But Justine Stower, the health and security director at the University of Johannesburg, said the decision was a sign that South Africa could have no effective influence on the continent.
She said: “We can still have serious research done in South Africa but we will have an international reputation of having to ask for it before we get it, because as a government we’re often not in control of what we say because of who we have to abide by.”
Stower said she could not conceive that anyone in Europe had donated money or drugs or equipment to research on South Africa’s health.
She added: “South Africa has the gold standard in research across Africa … that reputation was just destroyed yesterday. It’s outrageous that they took it so lightly.
“South Africa does have a positive impact on Africa and its citizens and on culture. That beautiful cultural impression cannot be stripped from us.”
Stower said people in Europe had embraced Mandela and continued to honour him in every way.
“He’s a hero. To bring it back to medicine and health and human rights is just a bizarre way to deal with it,” she said.