Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dalai Lama too inconvenient for South Africa?

The Dalai Lama has called off a planned visit to South Africa after "now [being] convinced that for whatever reason or reasons, the South African government finds it inconvenient to issue" a visa.

In a statement from New Delhi, the Dalai Lama's office said he had planned to leave his Indian exile home Thursday [October 6th], but after failing to receive a visa this week the trip has been called off.

South African foreign ministry officials have denied accusations of bowing to pressure from China . . .

Fellow Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu had invited the Dalai Lama to South Africa to celebrate his 80th birthday, and bitterly criticized the delay in the issuing of a visa.

Dumisa Ntesebeza, chairman of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, which had planned to host a speech by the Dalai Lama on Saturday, the day after Tutu's birthday, said he could not immediately comment. The foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela refused comment.

Rights groups, academics, opposition parties and newspapers in South Africa had pressed their government to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.

In a statement last week, Loyisa Nongxa, vice chancellor of Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, said that instead of trying to "silence" the Dalai Lama, South Africa should "welcome the opportunity and allow all voices to be heard in our democracy -- a right for which we fought with our lives."

The university had hoped to host the Dalai Lama for a second speech during his visit.

In an editorial this week, the Sunday Times of Johannesburg said: "The government has dithered for weeks over the Tibetan spiritual leader's visa application, leading to suspicion that Pretoria has once again been put under immense pressure by China not to allow the Dalai Lama to visit."

South Africa's deputy president was on a state visit to China last month as it remains a major trade partner for South Africa.