New Dalai Lama visa row

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in conversation in 2008 at the University of Washington in Seattle. File picture: Ted Warren

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in conversation in 2008 at the University of Washington in Seattle. File picture: Ted Warren

Published Sep 4, 2014


Cape Town - The Dalai Lama has cancelled a third trip to South Africa, this time for the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates next month, because the government has again refused him a visa.

The summit, an annual gathering, is being held in Cape Town for the first time, with the arrangements being made by a local organising committee formed by the foundations representing the four South African laureates, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk and Albert Luthuli.

The other Nobel Peace Laureates have told Tutu they will not come if the Dalai Lama is not permitted to enter the country.

It is the third time in five years that the Dalai Lama has had to cancel an engagement in South Africa because of a failure to secure a visa.

The Dalai Lama’s representative in South Africa, Nangsa Choedon, said Department of International Relations and Co-operation officials had phoned her office in the past week to say the Tibetan spiritual leader would not be granted a visa. The office has yet to receive written confirmation.

“For now the Dalai Lama has decided to cancel his trip to South Africa,” Choedon said.

On Wednesday the department declined to confirm or deny that a visa had been refused.

Choedon said the Dalai Lama, who lives in India, had applied in New Delhi on August 27.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who is to host the event, said she had instructed city officials on Tuesday to write to the government to establish whether the Dalai Lama had been denied a visa.

“We have not heard from them yet, but I will not give up hope that our government will not humiliate the Dalai Lama again,” De Lille said.

The organisers say 13 individuals and eight organisations have confirmed they will attend the summit.


Tutu said through his spokesman Roger Friedman on Wednesday: “I have heard that if the Dalai Lama is not allowed into the country, other invited guests have said they will not come.”

Tutu is out of the country and could not be reached for further details on Wedneday.

The FW de Klerk Foundation says the laureates should attend the summit and use it as a platform for protest.

“They can come to the summit and express opinions here,” the foundation’s executive director, Dave Steward, said. As far as the foundation knew, an official decision had not yet been made.

“But it would undoubtedly be a matter of controversy if he is denied entry to South Africa,” he said.

Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete referred all media questions about the Dalai Lama’s visa application to Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela.

Monyela, however, said Home Affairs was dealing with the application.

“I will find out whether the government has received an application and if a decision has been made.”

Monyela had not done so by the time of publication.

In 2009, a peace conference in Johannesburg, arranged to highlight the World Cup in South Africa, was cancelled because the Dalai Lama was refused a visa.

Tutu and De Klerk, who were to have attended with three other laureates, withdrew, as did the executive director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Geir Lundestad.

In 2011, the Dalai Lama cancelled his visit to Tutu virtually on the eve of his departure, saying he had failed to get a response to his visa application.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota asked the Western Cape High Court to rule on the constitutionality of the government’s conduct. The court declined to rule, saying the matter was moot, but the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein found in November 2012 that then-Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had “unreasonably delayed her decision whether to grant or withhold the visas relevant to this case and in so doing acted unlawfully”.

Among the laureates planning to attend are Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer and founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre in Iran; Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the concept of microcredit and microfinance; and Lech Walesa, a Polish trade unionist and human rights activist.

The summit will take place from October 13 to 15 at the CTICC.

Cape Times

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