Dalai Lama was ‘asked to withdraw’
Cape Town - The South African government asked representatives of the Dalai Lama to withdraw his application for a visa to visit SA, for reasons “in the national interest”, it has been alleged.
The Presidency this week took exception to “inaccurate and misleading” remarks by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.
She had cited the refusal of a visa for the Tibetan spiritual leader as reason for the cancellation of the Nobel Peace Laureates world summit, which had been scheduled for Cape Town next week.
“We take strong exception to the utterances of the Mayor of Cape Town, which have cast aspersions on the integrity of the South African government and the country,” said President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj.
He said the Dalai Lama’s office had told the government he would not attend the summit, “thus effectively cancelling his visa application”. But on Tuesday a Tibetan activist alleged the Dalai Lama’s representatives had been asked to withdraw the visa application, as it would not be “in the national interest” for South Africa to grant the visa.
Guy Lieberman, a long-time independent Tibetan activist, who has co-organised the three previous visits by the Dalai Lama to South Africa, in 1996, 1999 and 2004, told Kieno Kammies on 567MW Cape Talk today that the Dalai Lama’s visa application had been submitted, when his representatives had been asked for a meeting.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) requested a meeting with Nangsa Choedon, who serves as the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Office of Tibet, in South Africa.
Choedon is the Tibetans’ representative for African countries, except the Francophone countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, the website www.tibet.net reports.
A Dirco official met her, her deputy and Lieberman at the Tibetan mission’s offices in Centurion, Gauteng.
Lieberman declined to name the Dirco official – suggesting the official’s personal identity was “not relevant” – and that the official had been “sent by Dirco with the government’s directive”.
This was the news that the Dalai Lama would not be granted a visa, “in the national interest”, and a request that his visa application should be withdrawn to avoid the need for an official snub.
“It was a very difficult conversation, but the government’s message was very clear,” he said.
The Tibetans had then duly withdrawn the application.
“The Tibetans are world-renowned for their humility. He had accepted the invitation, but when the government requested he should withdraw his application, he did so,” Lieberman explained.
Maharaj was thus technically correct, in arguing that the Dalai Lama’s visa application had been withdrawn, but this had been a disingenuous explanation, as the visa application had been at Dirco’s explicit instruction, Lieberman said.
Choedon could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but previously told the news agency AFP, early last month, that the government “conveyed by phone to me they will not be able to grant the visa for the reason that it would disturb relations between China and South Africa”.
On September 4, Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela reported, subsequently repeated by Maharaj: “The Department of International Relations and Co-operation has received written confirmation from the office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama in India indicating that His Holiness has cancelled his planned visit to South Africa.
“At the time of the receipt of the notification, the South African High Commission in New Delhi was still processing the visa application in line with due process relating to visa applications.
“Following the cancellation of the planned visit by the office of His Holiness, the Department now considers the matter to be closed.”
Neither Maharaj nor Monyela could be reached on Tuesday for comment.