National Government disingenuous on Dalai Lama visa

City of Cape Town – Statement by the city’s executive mayor, Patricia de Lille

The City of Cape Town wishes to reiterate that the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is continuing as planned – despite the fact that it appears that the National Government has refused a visa to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

It needs to be stressed that we have yet to receive a formal written response either from the Office of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, or the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to our queries related to the status of the His Holiness’ application.

However, based on further discussions with the Dalai Lama’s representatives both in South Africa and Dharamsala, it has now become clear that the officials from DIRCO contacted the Dalai Lama’s office to inform them that the South Africa government would not grant him a visa to attend the summit, due to sensitivities related to the Chinese government.

This makes DIRCO’s statement of yesterday, that they were processing his visa application using normal processes, entirely disingenuous. The fact is that on the basis of the National Government’s telephonic contact with the office of the Dalai Lama, it was clear that his application was going to be refused and His Holiness withdrew his application to avoid any further embarrassment.

The actions of DIRCO are absolutely appalling, and an affront to a key theme of the summit: celebrating 20 years of South Africa’s constitutional democracy and the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela.

It is indeed a dark day for South Africa when the ideals for which Nelson Mandela and so many others fought are sold to the highest bidder.

The Mandela, Luthuli, De Klerk, and Tutu Foundations will be writing to President Zuma appealing to him to intervene and ensure that a visa is granted to the Dalai Lama so that he can attend the summit.

A further appeal, in the form of a petitioning letter, will be made by past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize (including former heads of State) to President Zuma.

The Nobel Peace Laureates who have already signed the letter of appeal to President Zuma include President Lech Walesa, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Muhammad Yunus, Jody Williams, Betty Williams, Tawakkul Karman, Leimah Gbowee, and Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

If this last attempt at securing a visa is unsuccessful, the programme of the summit will be adapted to ensure that the Nobel Peace Laureates can make a powerful symbolic protest of the Dalai Lama’s treatment.

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