The Reverend Mpo Tutu said that while the debacle over the Dalai Lama's visa was sad for her father, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the huge sadness is over our country' Photo: Brenton Geach

Janet Heard

The fiasco over the Dalai Lama’s visa was “unuttterably sad”, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu, said yesterday.

Mpho Tutu told the Cape Times that she felt deep sadness when she sat beside her father at the press conference at which he lashed out at the ANC government this week.

The moment made her look back to the past few decades of the country’s history. “I think we have all carried a dream for South Africa. We have been so proud of what we have accomplished. We changed the world (with the end of apartheid),” said Mpho Tutu, who is the founding director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

“We underlined the importance of some core values and we upheld them. We have had a shining moment that really belonged to all of us as South Africans. The decision to negotiate an end to apartheid felt like a very South African way of doing things. The whole world also felt they owned a part of our victory.

“For a long time, we were different. In our living memory we have walked out of great darkness and into shining light. But who are we becoming?” she asked.

We are “clawing our way back into darkness”, said Mpho Tutu, who relocated from the US to South Africa a few months ago to continue and safeguard her father’s legacy with the foundation.

While she was sad for her father that his friend the Dalai Lama – both are Nobel Laureates – would no longer be able to celebrate his birthday with him, “the huge sadness is over our country”, she said.

Growing angry when asked about Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s comments that the government would have given the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a visa if he hadn’t cancelled his visit, she said: “Don’t give us that nonsense. This is a world figure. It is compounding disrespect with disrespect.

“The government could have issued a visa 10 weeks ago, five weeks ago, 10 days ago. What’s the hold-up? Why hold us on a string, like a teenager asking for a date?”

Describing the government’s responses about the process involved in the Dalai Lama’s visa over the past few weeks as “juvenile”, Mpho Tutu said it could have managed the process better.

She said it would have been better if it had been forthright from the start and just said no. “But to dangle us on a string is out. I think we hoped for better from our government”.

She said the cancellation of the Dalai Lama’s trip had caused major disruption to plans for the weekend, which included a birthday party tomorrow and an inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture on Saturday.

In a scathing attack, Archbishop Tutu told a press conference on Tuesday that the government did not represent him.

“Hey Mr Zuma, you represent your own interests,” he said.

l See Q&A with Mpho Tutu and also a 12-page special supplement on Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on his 80th birthday in tomorrow’s Cape Times.