Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|December 20, 2021|4 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor's Desk

"The RED LIST blues"

Full marks to South Africa for sticking up for itself on the world stage and demanding compensation for the red listing of the country in the current resurgence of the COVID pandemic.

The call came from the lips of the no-nonsense South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor who also accused rich countries of hoarding vaccines that could have helped the rest of the world rid itself of the damaging pandemic.

I can only imagine how many entrepreneurs in South Africa went west as the United Kingdom put it on the red list – effectively paralysing travel between the two countries. Entrepreneurs owning hotels, restaurants and safari lodges have been hanging on for nearly  two years – this renewal of the red listing must have felt like a kick in the guts. One industry analyst calculated that South Africa was losing more than $1.6 million dollars-a-day because of the red listing.

To add insult to injury, South Africa was being penalised for actually being a good world citizen and tracking down and sensibly reporting the new Omicron variant to the world. As one doctor said, the world should have come back with a plan to support South Africa , rather than punish it by sticking it back on the red list.The outrage across the country was palpable. – the hard-working doctors who did the hard work, feel short changed.

But Pandor’s words are unlikely to see any action from the UK – although a compensation claim does hold water. They are likely to end up as one of the small side notes to this whole sorry affair that has seen countless thousands die because of bungling and a lack of resources everywhere.

There is not a snowball in hell’s chance for any such claim. The UK – as it has shown in its approach to land in Africa – is terrified of forking out money and setting a precedent.

I recall the great debate over farmland in Zimbabwe in the last years of the 20th century. The politicians in Harare wanted  the UK to pay for land seized on its watch – as the administrator of a former Crown Colony. No chance, British diplomats told me at the time. The UK government had tossed a million here and there at the land issue in Zimbabwe but would not set a precedent of paying out  maybe billions to compensate for every hectare.

Bearing in mind that the UK once held sway over a quarter of the globe, through its empire and naval power – any precedent could have seen the coffers of the mother country emptied by land compensation claims from New Zealand to New Guinea.

Imagine the poor British taxpayer being told their hard-earned money had gone to countries that many probably never knew existed, let alone qualified for compensation for land .

I am sure that for the very same reasons the UK will turn a blind eye to Pandor’s claim. Sad.