National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told delegates at the 7th Brics Parliamentary Forum that South Africa was duty-bound to report the Omicron variant.
“As a responsible global citizen, South Africa was duty-bound to report the discovery of the Omicron variant, and this has been done without fail due to the country’s world-class expertise and monitoring,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
Mapisa-Nqakula echoed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assertion that the subsequent travel bans on SA and other African countries were a complete and unjustified departure from the commitment that many countries had made at the G20 meeting in Rome last month.
“The travel restrictions, which were not informed by science, were essentially a punishment for world-class science and responsible global citizenship as well as transparency and openness, she said.
The Omicron variant was identified by South African scientists last week.
The 7th Brics Parliamentary Forum was held on the sidelines of the 143rd assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), currently underway in Madrid, Spain.
The Brics Parliamentary Forum is constituted by the National Congress of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the Parliament of the Republic of India, the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, and the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.
Mapisa-Nqakula is leading a six-member multiparty delegation of the South African Parliament as the assembly.
Omicron is creating unnecessary panic
She told delegates that Covid-19 was entrenching stereotypes in ways that could never have been imagined.
“The identification of the variant has created panic around the world, resulting in inbound and outbound travel bans against southern African countries,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
Mapisa-Nqakula is being accompanied by other South African parliamentary delegation members, including Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Sylvia Lucas, House Chairperson for International Relations Madala Ntombela, EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu and ANC MP Judith Tshabalala.
Lucas, who also made remarks, said African women, particularly, continued to be disproportionately affected by the economic crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Women’s quality of life has depreciated as this pandemic threatens to reverse some of the important advances and gains that we have made as women,” said Lucas.
‘End vaccine apartheid’
Meanwhile, the Department of International Relations (Dirco) called on European countries to end vaccine apartheid, instead of imposing travel bans on South Africa.
South Africa and India are currently lobbying the World Trade Organization for big pharmaceutical companies to waive vaccine intellectual property rights, even if it’s only temporarily.
This will allow developing countries to manufacture this vaccines locally so their populations can access life-saving medication.
“It’s only once we’ve vaccinated everyone, including the countries that have closed their borders, that we’ll be safe,” said Dirco.
International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor is currently discussing the travel bans with the United States and the United Kingdom.
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney