/ 27 March 2009

IFP leader takes govt to court over Dalai Lama visa

An urgent court application by the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to force the minister of home affairs to grant the Dalai Lama a visa has been set down for Tuesday.

Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said other parties were likely to intervene on the side of Buthelezi when the matter is heard in the Western Cape Division of the High Court.

”The matter is on the roll for Tuesday,” he said. ”Other parties are intervening on side of Dr Buthelezi, but I am not able to say who they are,” he said. ”They may want more time, so the matter may not be heard on Tuesday.”

The Dalai Lama was refused a visa to attend a soccer-related peace conference to have been held in Johannesburg starting on Friday.

”There are times at which words are not sufficient and action is required,” Buthelezi said in a statement on the application against Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

”For this reason today I have filed the application.”

Buthelezi said the international peace conference can still be held next week, before the national elections.

”This conference was meant to promote peace and reconciliation and to bring together in prayer people of goodwill so as to assist us in holding a peaceful and serene election,” he said.

Buthelezi said he has brought his experience and expertise as the former longest serving minister of home affairs of the democratic South Africa to bear in the application.

”I know that there are no legal impairments to the issuance of a visa to the Dalai Lama as the minister has the discretion to issue such a visa,” he said.

”Therefore, its denial has purely political reasons and bases. Any matter relating to the administration of our immigration or refugee affairs must be neutral in respect of foreign policy considerations.”

Buthelezi said in his application he submitted to the court that by barring the Dalai Lama’s entry into South Africa, the government has breached his constitutional rights to political action, religious freedom and expression, free thought, speech and expression and dignity.

”I further submitted to the court that the rights to all those in South Africa intending to participate in the Peace Conference or in any way interact with the Dalai Lama and receive from him his message and inspiration have been equally violated.”

Buthelezi said irrespective of the outcome of this litigation, he hopes it may inspire others not to stand by idly when faced with the ”arrogance of power”.

”The Dalai Lama himself taught me this lesson. Too often we have allowed our government to trample over the rule of law, democratic values and those human rights for which we have fought so hard. I hope that actions of this type may inspire a new wave of patriotism which may preserve such values for our future generations,” he said. — Sapa