European Union member states are set to impose an additional travel ban on citizens from South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe in response to an alleged threat to war on the continent.
The European Commission will also impose restrictions on the customs regime for trade between China and the African countries. The targets will be subjected to regular visa interviews, barred from leaving their countries and could be denied entry to the EU.
The move comes after a meeting of European foreign ministers on Thursday, which was brought together by the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. It follows tensions between South Africa and Israel over the past week, which resulted in a tense encounter between African leaders and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Pretoria on Wednesday.
According to the European Union, there are about 10,000 EU citizens in South Africa and some 3,000 in Zimbabwe, while there are some 150,000 in Mozambique and about 350,000 in Swaziland. The Cabinet decision is anticipated to affect a total of 40,000 people.
“I do not underestimate the extent of the threat that exists against the security of the European continent, and I believe that the travel ban for citizens of the affected states is a necessary response,” Mr. Avramopoulos said. “I am also convinced that we shall be able to communicate this measure effectively to the neighbouring states.”
While the immediate response to the flight ban is a restriction on visas for Chinese citizens, the measure will have a wider impact, barring British citizens from taking flights to the Southern African region and putting citizens from the region on the EU’s list of refused countries.
On Friday, Mr. Netanyahu said South Africa was “perhaps the only country on the African continent today which is prepared to confront us not because of our operations against terrorism, not because of our assistance against terrorism, but because we stood up to them concerning anti-Semitism.” He praised Israeli troops for protecting the Mandela statue from pro-Palestinian protesters.
“They were especially angry at Israel because of the statue of Mandela, which they say was to glorify a terrorist,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “And there are many examples in history of terrorists trying to treat Israel as if it were a terrorist regime.”
South Africa is believed to be in “rebel” with Israeli policy in the region, but there is a strategic dimension as well, pointing to Washington’s support for South Africa’s stance against Iran and, more recently, against the Islamic State.
President Jacob Zuma has also been criticised for his pro-Iran rhetoric and for supporting sanctions against his country’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, over a corruption probe.
New tensions flared last week after the death of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. As the country marked the passing of Mr. Mandela’s ideals, there were increasing tensions between the South African president and the national Jewish community.
Mr. Gordhan has been accused of corruption and the government has vowed to remove him if not reinstated by November. “The confrontation between the President and the Jewish community has led to anxiety, with a lot of people fearing for their personal safety,” said one Jewish community leader to The Wall Street Journal.