Another Dalai Lama drama looms

2011-12-04 10:00
Carien du Plessis
The department of home affairs has suggested in court papers that the Dalai Lama won’t be granted a visa to visit South Africa in the near future.

For the first time the department has explained why it delayed giving the ­Tibetan spiritual leader a visa to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s birthday celebrations in October.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota filed court papers to ask for an order to force the department to consider giving a ­visa to the Dalai Lama for a planned event in March next year.

In his reply, home affairs director-general Mkhuseli Apleni said the ­department had to consider South ­Africa’s relations with China.

September’s visa application was handled by Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma herself “in view of the impact that the Dalai ­Lama’s visa application would have had on trade and foreign relations”.

He said China had invested in South African business sectors like telecommunications and mining. China had also recently supported South Africa’s request to join the ­economic grouping of Brics, while Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe conducted a ­“successful visit” to ­China. South ­Africa also feared a backlash from ­China similar to those experienced by France and Australia when they ­allowed the Dalai Lama to visit.

He said the Dalai Lama was granted a visa in 1996 because the government had only adopted the “One China ­Policy” in 1998.

According to this ­policy the government of the People’s Republic of China was the sole legal government, representing the whole of China.

The Dalai Lama wanted Tibet to be independent and was considered a terrorist by China. The Dalai Lama’s office had written to the South African government in ­August, asking for the courtesies ­accorded to a person of his stature, as well as for the necessary security ­arrangements.

Apleni denied that Dlamini-Zuma was dictated to by China in this regard.

She was still busy making a decision when the Dalai Lama cancelled his trip early in October. Apleni said the Dalai Lama’s application was incomplete, because he could initially not submit his original passport and wanted ­exemption from the administrative fees.

The Dalai Lama’s representative in Africa, Sonam Tenzing, said Buthelezi’s invitation had been received by the Dalai Lama’s office and “a decision was pending”.

The case is set down to be heard in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.