The way the South African government has responded to the Dalai Lama's visa application is “disrespectful”, the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre said on Wednesday.
It quoted Tutu as saying in an interview on Tuesday this was “reminiscent of the way authorities dealt with applications by black South Africans for travel documents under apartheid”.
The centre said in a statement that an official from the international relations department had apologised to Tutu for its “tardy” response to the application.
However, department spokesman Clayson Monyela suggested to the media that the Tibetan spiritual leader did not know how to apply for a visa and had only submitted the relevant documentation six days ago, the peace centre said.
“They have had all the documentation required to make their decision on the visa, and received the physical passport for stamping on 20 September when His Holiness returned from a visit to South America,” the Office of Tibet in Pretoria spokesman Sonam Tenzing said in a statement.
“This is a process that his holiness' representatives have dealt with many times in the past.”
On Monday, chairman of the peace centre Dumisa Ntsebeza said he had sent four letters to deputy international relations minister Ebrahim Ebrahim but had not received a response.
Tutu has invited the Dalai Lama, who was refused entry into the country two years ago, to his 80th birthday celebrations in Cape Town on October 7.
Tutu warned that the government would “shoot itself in the foot” by again refusing his fellow Nobel Peace laureate entry into South Africa.
In 2009, South Africa barred the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader from visiting the country to attend a peace conference, for fear of jeopardising ties with China, a key trade partner.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising in 1959. He accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a separatist and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders. - Sapa