Cosatu presses govt on Dalai Lama

2011-10-03 20:06

Cape Town - The government stuck to its refusal to pronounce on the Dalai Lama's visa application on Monday but came under pressure from rights activists and and ally Cosatu to allow him into the country.

"Even though China is our biggest trading partner, we should not exchange our morality for dollars," the trade union federation's Western Cape leader Tony Ehrenreich told a candlelight vigil outside Parliament.

"It is completely inappropriate and discriminatory that the Dalai Lama should be denied access."

Ehrenreich said South Africans wanted to see the rights of the Tibetan spiritual leader respected and warned: "The government must not act against the will of the people because then you are no longer acting on our behalf."

Opposition leader Helen Zille and academic Mamphele Ramphele accused the government of betraying South Africa's sovereignty and Constitution.

"We cannot be blackmailed into defying our Constitution," Zille said at the peaceful protest by some 200 people, some of them praying.

Earlier on Monday, a representative of the Dalai Lama said requests for information from the South African High Commission in India, where he lives in exile, had proved fruitless.

"We have not been told anything. I spoke to my colleague in New Delhi and they are still waiting. The high commission has closed now for the day," Sonam Tenzing said.

Tenzing added that high commission staff in New Delhi told his colleagues they were awaiting a decision from Pretoria "because it is a political decision" that must be made by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

The Dalai Lama, 76, applied for a visa in August to allow him to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of his friend and fellow Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Friday.

International relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela would not comment on the application, except to say that any eventual decision would be communicated only to the Dalai Lama.

President Jacob Zuma said he had no hand the decision.

He told a business breakfast in Johannesburg: "I don't know what will be the final thing. I don't think that you can get a definite answer from me."

City Press quoted an unnamed diplomatic source on Sunday as saying it was "unlikely" the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader would be granted a visa, because the government did not want to strain its ties with China.


The Dalai Lama visited South Africa on three occasions between 1996 and 2004, and met former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

In 2009, he was refused entry by the Zuma administration to attend a conference of Nobel laureates. The government said the visit would detract from preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The decision drew criticism from abroad and at home, with then public enterprises minister Barack Obama saying it showed the government was "dismissive of human rights".

She was reprimanded and forced to apologise to her Cabinet colleagues. Tutu termed the decision "disgraceful" and University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) vice chancellor and principal Loyiso Nongxa said it "ridicules the values enshrined in our Constitution".

Wits has again invited the Dalai Lama to speak at the university and another outcry is expected if he is again denied entry into South Africa.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

He accepts Chinese rule and stepped down from political life earlier this year, but Beijing accuses him of being a "splittist" and discourages his meetings with foreign government leaders.

In July, China signalled its displeasure after United States President Barack Obama received the Dalai Lama at the White House.

As part of Tutu's birthday celebrations from October 6 to 8, he was expected to deliver a speech titled "Peace and compassion as catalyst for change" to students.

Ramphele said after all Tutu had done for South Africa, "to prevent a lovely party of a set of old men is really not fair".

  • Cornel Van West - 2011-10-03 20:26

    Public Enterprises Minister Barack Obama? Really?

      gizzy - 2011-10-03 20:40

      Thought the same thing. What an insult to Barack Obama!!!

      Democrat - 2011-10-03 20:47

      I just think that the article has the comma in the wrong place.It should move from after home to just before Barack.

  • cyclops - 2011-10-03 20:28

    Bunch of wankers...

  • Bildo - 2011-10-03 20:30

    "with then public enterprises minister Barack Obama saying it showed the government was "dismissive of human rights".Gee! What have you been smoking?

  • KarooOstrich - 2011-10-03 20:47

    WOW!! Ducking + diving by all + sundry. Isn't this typical of the government? And now Cosatu also enters the fray. These clowns really know about passing the buck + dodging issues don't they. I wonder how many of them will be booked off work for stress now that this has become a real hot potatoe. Very interesting.

      gizzy - 2011-10-03 20:55

      And Cosatu have only woken up now. This saga has been going on since August!!!! Amazing how these ANC clowns have forgotten about the support they got before being unbanned. And that support certainly didn't come from China! And for Zuma to say it's not up to him! What a buffoon, he is the bloody state president! Spinelss!

  • Marc van Olst - 2011-10-03 20:58

    I find it fascinating how our ruling party defends free speech that inflicts pain on group of our own population (i.e. dabula ibhunu) but not the freedom of a great peacemaker and pacifist whose only intention is to spread love. Have we exchanged one colonial era for another...and what is really behind it?

      Jasoneye - 2011-10-03 21:07

      Marc the Chinese machine is investing huge amounts of money into Africa, not to mention the fact that they are the only none white economic power pushing for friendship. Unfortunately the old guard of the ANC will not see beyond the struggle!

      KarooOstrich - 2011-10-03 21:11

      It's called double standards Marc.

  • Rowen - 2011-10-03 21:23

    F^&K the ANC! Cowards, with no backbone...including ZUMA. shame on them! Bowing down to China like they do to Malema...idiots

      Rowen - 2011-10-04 13:03

      Our constitution, our "freedom", our pride as a nation, reconciliation and democratic ways are at great threat. We need to be heard...something needs to happen.

  • Janine - 2011-10-03 22:03

    Can someone please explain to me why this man would need a visa in the first place? I was not aware that visas were required for entry into South Africa. This is a genuine puzzlement to me.

  • Enlightner - 2011-10-03 22:44

    Where the Dalai Lama just a simple monk I am sure he would have been allowed entry in our beautiful country. But, alas a pure heart as he, got involved in politics too and now has to get reprimanded for his worthiness and good causes "only he knows" he has in is heart for actually the whole world...look at his shows love and joy Two things that move or planet breathing and money.....Now these are energies and so is the Dalai Lama...A blessing to the earth if he sets foot on our soil...Our dear leaders need to tone their thinking becuase it is evident from sites such as these and the newspapers etc the mentality of not only a goverment of whatever country, citizens alike too regardless of race......To change the world and to live in harmony mankind needs to live according to natures laws...and natures laws are a vegetarian diet....What has been a vegetarian got to do with the Dalai Lama?...Well he is vegetarian...does he think like some of us do? Have we heard him make fiery comments about not gaining entry...nope...all you see is compassion beautifully dipslayed on his face..take a look for yourself....Blessings Dalai Lama...remember light always prevails

  • Ayesha - 2011-10-04 00:57

    How did nobody tell us that Barack Obama had been South Africa's Public Services minister? So does this make Barbara Hogan the President of the United States of America? Get your facts straight.

  • Dylan - 2011-10-04 06:53

    I find this all very hypocritical. Because after all the ANC was in the same position 20 years ago, weren't they? With the Apartheid govt discouraging other countries from formally receiving any sort of ANC delegation. And yet, this is even worse because it is for personal reasons! As Tutu said, disgraceful. Here South Africa is meant to represent Human Rights, and a successful transition from a racist reigime but 17 years on we seem to have forgotten that. Just raises many other questions about our current administration and their lack of foresight and political abilities. And JZ: if you really wanted to, at the snap of a finger you could have that visa granted right now. So don't try and make out otherwise, because that is BS, and lying won't get you anywhere except the dog-box. All i can say is good on Helen Zille and the DA for standing up for what our country and constitution stand for, or are meant to anyway.

  • Borderite - 2011-10-04 07:19

    This is no longer just about the Dalai Lama. It's about a threat to the fundamental rights and freedoms of every South African. If the government caves in on this, what's next?

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