[AFP] DHARAMSALA, Oct 2: The Dalai Lama on Thursday accused South Africa of “bullying a simple person” after authorities there failed to give him a visa to attend a summit of Nobel peace laureates.
“The Nobel Peace Summit scheduled to be held in South Africa to honour the legacy of our fellow laureate, the late Nelson Mandela, has been cancelled as the South African government wouldn’t allow me to attend it,” the Dalai Lama said in a speech in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala where he is based.
“This is sort of bullying a simple person.”
South Africa has been criticised in the past for refusing to grant the Dalai Lama a visa, reportedly under pressure from China.
This year a number of laureates pulled out of the summit, scheduled to be held next week in Cape Town, in protest at South Africa’s failure to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader thanked his fellow peace laureates for their efforts, saying they had “worked hard” to resolve the issue.
He made his comments at a ceremony in Dharamshala attended by two fellow laureates — Jody Williams, founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and the Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi — both of whom are boycotting the South Africa summit.
Williams accused President Jacob Zuma’s government of “selling its sovereignty” to China in a speech at the ceremony at the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamshala on Thursday.
“Not a single laureate is happy about that decision (to cancel). Fourteen laureates protested to President Zuma, pressuring him, begging him, to give a visa to His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) so that we all could be together and celebrate in South Africa the legacy of Nelson Mandela.
“We could not go, and the message we were sending… was a message of protest to China. It was a message of protest to governments who sell their soul and their sovereignty to China, as South Africa did,” she said to loud applause from the audience of hundreds of Tibetan refugees.
The three-day event was to have focused on subjects such as “Reflecting on 20 years of democracy in South Africa: goals achieved and continuing challenges”, “Averting conflict for global security: the role of international institutions”, “Building lasting peace in divided communities through positive examples”, “Warfare in Africa and lasting conflicts throughout the world”.
The City of Cape Town said it would make an announcement about the event on Thursday.
On Wednesday night, Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu also broke his silence on the Dalai Lama visa saga. “I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government,” he said.
Tutu said: “I cannot believe that the South African government could shoot itself in the same foot thrice over. I believed that our government had a proper pride.
“When the Americans told Madiba he couldn’t continue his friendship with presidents (Muammar) Gaddafi and (Fidel) Castro, he told them to go and jump in the lake; that they could not choose his friends for him.”
The DA also branded Zuma a biblical traitor – a “Judas Iscariot”.
On Thursday Dr Wilmot James MP, the Democratic Alliance’s federal chairman, charged: “Like Judas Iscariot, President Jacob Zuma’s ANC covenanted with the People’s Republic of China to betray the principles of a free, just and fair society by denying the Dalai Lama a visa for 30 pieces of silver.
“Like Judas, President Zuma loves money more than principles. He is willing to trade our country’s patrimony for everything we fought for, stand for and care about.”