Politicians: Govt must come clean on Dalai Lama

Johannesburg - Politicians want to know why Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has repeatedly been denied entry to South Africa.

"Government must come clean and say why it does not want the Dalai Lama to come to South Africa. Hiding behind bureaucracy just does not cut it anymore," United Democratic Movement secretary general Bongani Msomi said on Thursday.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille was waiting for an answer from government after writing to officials earlier this week.

Earlier, the Cape Times reported that the Dalai Lama had again been refused entry to the country, this time for the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. The summit, an annual gathering, is being held in Cape Town next month.

"We wish to make it very clear that neither the City of Cape Town as the host city of the summit, nor the organising committee of the summit, have received any official confirmation about the status of the Dalai Lama’s visa application," De Lille said.

No written confirmation yet

She said this year's summit would commemorate the life of former president Nelson Mandela and his work as a global peace icon.

"In this context, it would be hard to imagine why the national government would not do everything possible to support this important and fitting tribute."

The Dalai Lama's representative in South Africa, Nangsa Choedon, said department officials phoned her office to say they would not be granting the visa. It had not yet received written confirmation.

"For now the Dalai Lama has decided to cancel his trip to South Africa," Choedon was quoted as saying.

Arrangements for the summit were being made by a local organising committee formed by the foundations representing four South African laureates - Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk, and Albert Luthuli.

The Cape Times reported that other Nobel Peace Laureates told Tutu they would not come if the Dalai Lama was not permitted to enter the country.

Differing stances

This is the third time in five years the Dalai Lama could not secure a visa to enter South Africa.

The international relations department could not confirm or deny if the visa had been refused.

In a statement, De Lille said she had received no official confirmation from any of the attending Nobel Peace Laureates of their intention to boycott the summit.

The Democratic Alliance questioned government's strict stance on the Dalai Lama's visa regulations, saying it was lenient on President Jacob Zuma's friends entering the country.

"The South African government showed no regard for visa regulations when hundreds of guests of... Zuma’s ally, the Gupta family, landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013," DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa said.

A chartered commercial aircraft, ferrying 270 wedding guests for the wedding of Vega Gupta and Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia, landed at the base in April last year.

‘ANC’s close ties with China’

The landing sparked widespread criticism and several investigations were launched. A government investigation exonerated President Jacob Zuma and his ministers, and found the landing was due to "collusion by officials".

Mokgalapa said the decision to deny the Dalai Lama entry in the past was "clearly being influenced" by the ANC’s close ties with China.

"This is unacceptable, as China should not be allowed to dictate South Africa’s foreign policy under any circumstances," he said.

The Dalai Lama, as a man of peace, did not deserve to be treated like a persona non-grata, as he did not pose a threat to South Africa, he said.

China is South Africa's main trading partner, and accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist fuelling unrest in Tibet.