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ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Desmond Tutu is “very hopeful” that his good friend, the Dalai Lama, will be granted a visa to South Africa for his 80th birthday celebrations, saying that the government would not want to “shoot themselves in the foot” by turning him down.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was denied entry by the government in 2009 at the behest of China, which rules over Tibet.
In an exclusive interview with the Cape Times at his Durbanville offices yesterday, Tutu, who turns 80 on October 7, described having to wait to hear whether the application would be accepted or rejected as a little “ungracious”.
“It’s only a few weeks left and you need to know, prepare, what’s going to happen if he doesn’t come,” Tutu said.
“I mean it’s so sad to think that we have had a kind of experience of repression that we have had, in that we should want to kowtow to a hugely repressive regime that can dictate to us about freedom and things of that kind. For oldies like us ... it just gives us a sadness.”
Tutu had previously declined to comment on the Dalai Lama’s visa application.
“I have refrained from saying anything much more than it would be very odd if he was not granted a visa,” he said.
“When you think of the stature of the person, the following that he has in the world.
“This is not someone who is coming to speak about encouraging people to fight. He’s speaking about peace and compassion, about caring and he has one of the largest followings in the world.”
After various attempts, the Dalai Lama’s visa application was finally received by the Department of Home Affairs more than a week ago.
Asked by the Cape Times whether he thought the authorities would approve the Dalai Lama’s application, Tutu said: “Yes. Let me say I am very hopeful that no one will want to shoot themselves in the foot.”
The visa application was being considered by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, spokesman Clayson Monyela said yesterday.
“The visa application is going through the normal channels like any normal application would go through,” Monyela said.
Asked who would make the decision, Monyela would only say “the people who would normally make the decisions”.
Commenting on President Jacob Zuma’s confirmation minutes before of Mogoeng Mogoeng as Chief Justice, Tutu said he would start out with a “huge disadvantage”.
“I would have thought it would have been a great deal better if more than one candidate was interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission. It is unusual that one candidate should have attracted so many negative comments,” Tutu said.
“I would have thought that would make him uncomfortable, when it didn’t happen with any of his predecessors. “I think most people were quite happy to serve under the leadership of all of his predecessors.”
Tutu laughed when asked about the reaction to his call for an additional wealth tax on white people.
“In many ways, I think part of the reaction demonstrated that I was right to say we are all of us people who have been damaged by apartheid, and part of it shows in the guilt we have. We are so quick to go on the defensive,” he said.
“It wasn’t your fault. There were so many very good people opposed to it. But that doesn’t take away that they benefited. It’s silly to pretend that it didn’t happen. All I was trying to say was, have an opportunity for a gesture of magnanimousness.”
l Tutu’s birthday celebrations include an inaugural peace lecture by the Dalai Lama, a book launch, a Eucharist service at St George’s Cathedral and a private party in the Boland.