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Tutu Criticizes South African Government; Dalai Lama Cancels Visit

The Dalai Lama, left, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Seattle, Washington, April 2008 (file photo).

The Dalai Lama, left, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Seattle, Washington, April 2008 (file photo).

South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said the country's governing party, the African National Congress, is worse than the apartheid regime for delaying a decsion on a visa for the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The office of the Dalai Lama says that because of the uncertainty surrounding the visa application a visit to South Africa for Bishop Tutu's 80th birthday celebration has been cancelled.

“Mubarak had a large majority. Gadhafi had a large marjority. Watch out. I am warning you. Watch out. Please watch out,” warned Tutu.

It is not since the years of apartheid that South Africans have heard Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu issuing furious warnings to the government of the day. Archbishop Tutu is angry at the government of President Jacob Zuma for its failure to manage the visa application of the Dalai Lama with courtesy.

“I have to say that I can’t believe this. I really can’t believe it," said Tutu. "I mean you have to wake me up and tell me that this is actually happening here. And it is quite unbelievable the discourtesy that they have shown to the Dalai Lama. I mean, the Dalai Lama!”

The “Arch” as he is fondly known by his fellow citizens, was responding to the decision by the Dalai Lama not to travel to South Africa after the government, after five months, failed to either refuse or grant him a visa to attend Archbishop Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration this week. The spiritual leader was also scheduled to address students in three provinces.

Tutu said that even in the days of apartheid, the government always responded to applications even if the decision was as expected, almost always negative. He said it is clear that the government is quite determined to avoid doing anything that will upset the Chinese government. He noted that during his tenure, President Nelson Mandela refused to be told who South Africa should have as friends.

“I mean when you think that Madiba [Nelson Mandela] was able to say to the most powerful country, “look you don’t choose our friends for us” - and to say to the United States about Cuba. That really takes some doing, but he did and they did nothing," Tutu said. "If anything their respect for him grew. “

Tutu said that he finds it extraordinary that the African National Congress government, which received so much international support in its struggle to end an oppressive system, can be so uncaring about the people of Tibet who are oppressed by the Chinese government. He says those in power represent only their personal interests.

“You are disgraceful, I want to warn you. You are behaving in a way that is totally at variance with the things for which we stood," Tutu added. "I am warning you. I am warning you. That we will pray as we prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government, we will pray for the downfall of the government that misrepresents us.”

Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said the Dalai Lama didn't have to cancel his visit, and that he was not refused a visa.

South Africa accounts for 20 percent of China's trade in Africa and the countries last year signed a strategic partnership agreement.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011