Wits academics: ANC morally bankrupt
Johannesburg - University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) academics protesting over the Dalai Lama visa debacle accused the ruling party on Wednesday of being intellectually dishonest.
"This is the second time this happens. It's really unfortunate and very disingenuous of government. It's embarrassing," said professor Patrick FitzGerald, a deputy vice-chancellor.
Assistant lecturer Margaux Giannaros said: "As a country that experienced and defeated apartheid, we should be a free-thinking nation."
His colleague Kuba Szczygielski also questioned the way in which the government had handled the Tibetan spiritual leader's visa application.
"The hypocrisy of the whole thing! They would allow [former Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi and [Zimbabwe's president Robert] Mugabe in the country, but they can't accept a spiritual leader? It's amazing."
The university's vice chancellor Loyiso Nongxa said in a statement he was "disappointed and outraged" over parallels between the present government and the actions of the previous regime.
"It is not consistent with our African soul to make a prospective guest feel unwelcome," said Nongxa.
"I was brought up to believe that a guest brings blessings and South Africa in the 21st century sends signals that some guests are unwanted. It is deeply, deeply disappointing."
The Dalai Lama announced on Tuesday he had cancelled a planned trip to South Africa to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday celebrations at the weekend.
At the time he was still awaiting a decision from the government on his application for a visa.
Students and academics gathered for the protest at Wits, in Johannesburg, on Wednesday afternoon.
They held placards criticising the African National Congress and the government for its handling of the visa application.
A poster held up by an academic in his robe read: "Shame ANC! Intellectually dishonest, morally bankrupt and unworthy of South Africa."
FitzGerald challenged the government to explain what happened around the visa application so that the matter could be debated.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu earlier said the ANC was not "micro-managing" the government and was therefore not to blame for the situation.
It was also incorrect to equate the ANC government to the "repressive and divisive" apartheid regime - which never cared for the majority, he said.
Mthembu called on the department of international relations to take South Africans into its confidence on the issue.
It should reveal what happened so that everyone could be on the same page.
He called upon South Africans to stay calm and afford the government an opportunity to take everyone into its confidence around the issue.