Bloemfontein - The government acted unlawfully in delaying a decision on a visa application by the Dalai Lama, the Supreme Court of Appeal held on Thursday.

It concluded that former home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma unreasonably delayed the decision.

The appeal on the matter was brought by Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota.

Earlier, the Western Cape High Court dismissed with costs an application on whether it had been constitutional for the government not to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan spiritual leader cancelled a trip to South Africa to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday on October 4, last year.

Tutu was outraged and accused the current government of being worse than the apartheid-era one.

At the time, the high court found the issue was moot because the Dalai Lama, after getting no response to his visa application, cancelled his trip.

On Thursday, the appeal was upheld with costs. - Sapa