The South African government asked the Dalai Lama to withdraw his application for a visa to visit the country, for reasons “in the national interest,” according to Guy Lieberman, a Tibetan activist who helped organize the three previous visits by the Dalai Lama to South Africa.
The government had said that the Tibetan leader, who was scheduled to attend the Nobel Peace Laureates world summit this week, changed his mind about attending, “thus effectively cancelling his visa application.”
The event has since been suspended.
Lieberman claims that the Dalai Lama’s application had been submitted, when his representatives had been asked for a meeting.
In the meeting, a government official told representatives that the Dalai Lama would not be granted a visa, “in the national interest,” and requested instead that his application be withdrawn to avoid a denial.
“It was a very difficult conversation, but the government’s message was very clear,” Lieberman said.
“They understood that if the Dalai Lama withdrew, then they could say that they didn’t deny the visa,” he added.
The government says it is not prepared to comment on the matter at this stage.
Earlier this week, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille cited the refusal of a visa for the Dalai Lama as the reason for cancelling the Summit, which had been scheduled for Cape Town next week.
The City of Cape Town has apparently lost revenues of some R60 million with the relocation of the summit.
Nine former Nobel peace prize winners and eleven other organizations said they would boycott the conference because of the Dalai Lama’s exclusion. The event was to be dedicated to Nelson Mandela, the late South African who was himself a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The Presidency called the mayor’s remarks “inaccurate and misleading.”
“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.
The Democratic Alliance has meanwhile challenged the Presidency and the Ministers of Home Affairs and International Relations to go on record and confirm the offer of a visa to the Dalai Lama.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, a former Nobel laureate, released a statement last week describing Mr. Zuma’s government as cowardly. “I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government,” he said
A South African court had already ruled two years ago that officials had “unreasonably delayed” a decision on granting the Dalai Lama a visa in 2011, which prevented the Tibetan leader from attending Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday in Cape Town.