Dalai Lama Forced To Cancel Trip To South Africa


The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, has announced that he will not be visiting South Africa for a planned trip from the 6th to the 14th of October. He made the decision after a fruitless five-week-long wait for a visa to enter the country, the South African government effectively refusing to issue him with official travel documents.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, said that he abandoned his plans because he didn’t want to “create any inconveniences to anyone, individuals or governments.” The South African authorities are yet to furnish reasons for failing to give him a visa. He was to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and was invited to deliver a lecture in honor of the staunch anti-Apartheid campaigner and Nobel Peace laureate in Cape Town.

Tutu had earlier expressed his sadness over the situation, saying “I think my birthday gift is going to be: no Dalai Lama.” After the Dalai Lama’s decision to cancel his trip, Tutu’s disappointment turned into anger. In a scathing and unprecedented verbal attack on the South African government that was broadcast on national television on Tuesday, he exclaimed that:

“Our government is worse than the Apartheid government, because at least you were expecting it from the Apartheid government. […] Hey Mr Zuma [South Africa’s president], you and your government don’t represent me. You represent your own interests. I’m warning you out of love. I am warning you like I warned the nationalists [the Apartheid government] that one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC [the ruling part] government. You are disgraceful.”

There has been widespread outrage at the authorities’ decision not to issue the Dalai Lama with a visa in good time. Many critics believe that the government’s action was prompted by diplomatic pressure from China, South Africa’s biggest trading partner and a country that deems the Dalai Lama to be a “splittist” because of his efforts to win Tibet’s independence from China. The Chinese government is well-known for discouraging foreign leaders from hosting him. The Dalai Lama visited South Africa on three separate occasions between 1996 and 2004, but was refused entry in 2009 when he was to attend a conference of fellow Nobel Prize winners.

At a candlelight vigil held outside Parliament in Cape Town on Monday, Tony Ehrenreich, the provincial leader of South Africa’s largest trade union confederation, Cosatu, commented that “we should no exchange our morality for dollars or yuan. […] It’s inappropriate and discriminatory that the Dalai Lama should be denied access.” At the same event, prominent business woman and former head of the World Bank, Mamphela Ramphele said, referring to Tutu, “isn’t it ironic that when he’s celebrating his 80th birthday, the most fundamental right, the right to association, is being taken away from him?”

According to political analyst Steven Friedman, the authorities’ decision was probably influenced by South Africa’s recent inclusion in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) bloc of nations, formerly known as BRIC. Critics have complained that when Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s president, he would never have allowed other governments to decide who should or shouldn’t be the country’s friends.

Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath


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Photo from: Stock.Xchng


Miles Foster5 years ago

Melissa F.,

you clearly know nothing about this subject. At least I hope you don't. For if you had any knowledge of the Tibetan situation or the kind of man the Dalai Lama really is (and what kind of man do you imagine Tutu is that he has so much admiration for such a 'fake'?) then your comments would be truly regrettable. As it is, only ignorance can excuse you. Your comments are perilously close to the official Chinese government 'line', which routinely slanders this great, good man, and perhaps you have been taken in by it yourself. So I hope you will look more deeply into the matter for you will find that the Dalai Lama has a genuine cause, which he has pursued with patience, tact, dignity and compassion these 50 years and more.

Francisco Pepino
Francisco Pepino6 years ago

2 parties to be blamed....firstly Being for forcing its partners in trade to make decisions like this...come on Chinese government...i still cant get over my heart" tiananmen square massacre 1989' and then for our idiot government who actually let the Chinese government dictate their policy how messed up is this. South Africa is a democratic government one of the most progressive in the world why - COME ON - surely freedom of movement applies to the Dalai

anita TUCK6 years ago

Oh, dear, I woffled on for too long and got chopped off... let me just put in the fact that we do have some magnificent, shining lights in the ANC, and elsewhere, and they are the people, plus Desmond Tutu, who give me great hope for the future of South Africa.

I also mentioned that the Dalai Lama eventually sent an envoy to celebrate Bishop Tutu's birthday with him, so, typical of the human being he is, there were no hard feelings

anita TUCK6 years ago

Of course our government delayed issuing the Visa. Kow-tow to China is the name of the game, because China means money, money, money, and that's all that counts to this lot.

I opposed Apartheid throughout its rotten existence... bunch of Nazis... and Tutu opposed them too, thereby endangering himself for his principles. I was thrilled when our government became more representative of its people, particularly with Nelson Mandela at the helm.

Unfortunately the present lot have lost sight of those original glorious dreams, they make promises to their ignorant, unsophisticated electorate, get themselves voted in, then deny them basic human rights to homes, electricity, water, etc. They have provided quite a lot of amenities, etc, but have been blighted by corruption and could have done so much more in the time during which they have been in power.

Quite frankly, I don't think the majority of them have the faintest idea of what the Dalai Lama stands for, his type of idealists and thinkers are way beyond their terms of reference.

No thanks to the previous government, the huge proportion of Blacks in this country lack the basic skills to earn the money to afford their own homes.

One must take note here that the ANC government have been in power for 16 years or so, with primary education taking a dip in quality, plus high school education, even the universities have suffered, let alone have the government even bothered to establish artisan schools or places where the

Mellisa F.
Mellisa F.6 years ago

@Morgana, are you serious? "Since when did China tell everyone what to do" How ironic because if anything, America is the one telling every single country what to do, what they think is wrong or right! Stop being such a blind patriot.

Mellisa F.
Mellisa F.6 years ago

Haha anyone know that he actually used to be a SLAVEMASTER? He wasnt even elected and forced his way into this position and now all of a sudden he is all for human rights? He is someone called a SEPERATIST "Separatism is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession,separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy". He is a fake. China does not want their allies to support a man who makes fake claims about the Chinese suppressing the Tibetans.

Richard S.
Past Member 6 years ago

He that pays the piper, calls the tune.

Tamara D.
Tamara Dreier6 years ago

So this was a *political* decision so as not to anger China. Shocker.

Dawid Blyth
David B6 years ago

Why is anyone surprised by the behaviour of South Africa's ANC regime?
They practiced terrorism and have been shown to be corrupt.