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".

Read more on:    wits  |  mamphela ramphele  |  maite nkoana-mashabane  |  helen zille  |  desmond tutu  |  dalai lama  |  tony ehrenreich  |  barack obama  |  sa  |  us  |  china  |  politics

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

5 crucial questions to ask before you take that job 2014-10-30 08:00

You choose your employer just as much as they choose you. Here are 5 of the most important things you should find out about a company before you sign up.


LOL! Best outdoor girl fails

It’s not only guys who have FAIL moments! Here are some of the funniest outdoor fails where girls are the victims!


Where were you when you last felt alive?

90-year-old's incredible travels
10 facts about swimming you didn't know
Halloween night run
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There may be some tension that is caused through social conflicts -- personal interests versus obligations. You may feel more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.