Zuma: Dalai Lama visa refusal did not undermine rights

African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma says the government’s refusal of a visa to the Dalai Lama did not undermine human rights, SABC radio news reported on Friday.

“I don’t think it amounts [to the] undermining of the human rights. I think this country’s more sensitive to human rights than many,” he said.

“What should have happened ... so that it should not have had to reach this point, there should have been consultation as people were beginning to say this is what we want to do ...” he said.

He was speaking at a meeting with Afrikaner professionals and business people in Pretoria on Thursday.

The government had denied the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the now postponed 2010 peace conference.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was to have addressed the conference, aimed at thrashing out ways of using football to fight racism and xenophobia ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The government said that while it did not have a problem with the Dalai Lama, it did not want to draw focus away from preparations for the World Cup, to issues in Tibet.

Meanwhile, 2010 Fifa World Cup organising committee CEO Danny Jordaan said the calling off of the peace conference was a “great disappointment”, but it was time to move on.

SABC radio news reported on Friday that Jordaan said, while in Milan, Italy, on a European tour to promote the Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup: “[It is a] great disappointment, but I think the matter is over, the world has moved on, there are other issues to worry about.
You can see that the news is back on the question of the economic crisis and the job losses.

“Those things are the things that bother people and challenge them on a daily basis.”

On Wednesday, Jordaan denied that the local organising committee (LOC) had organised the conference.

“The [LOC] was not party to the discussions around the event and was not responsible for inviting guests to the Peace Conference,” he said in a statement.

“A matter of relations between states”

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on Thursday the Dalai Lama could not be allowed to raise global issues on South African soil that would affect the country’s standing.

Speaking during a debate at the University of Cape Town, he said not allowing the Dalai Lama into South Africa was “a matter of relations between states”.

“To say anything against the Dalai Lama is, in some quarters, equivalent to trying to shoot Bambi,” he said.

“Let’s put our cards on the table. Who is the Dalai Lama? I’ve heard him described as a god. I’ve heard him described as Buddha.

“Is he just the spiritual leader of the Buddhists in Tibet, or is he the one who on March 28 1969 established a government-in-exile in the same way as Taiwan was established to counter the reality of a single China?”

Manuel said Tibet’s history had to be looked at, because the Lamas had been “feudal overlords” in that country.

“The reason why the Dalai Lama wants to be here ... is to make a big global political statement about the secession of Tibet from China and he wants to make it on the free soil of South Africa.

“I’m sure he’s welcome to come at any other time, but we shouldn’t allow him to raise global issues that will impact on the standing of South Africa.

“Quite frankly this has nothing to do with the PSL [Premier Soccer League], it is a matter of relations between states and that’s what we have to stand up for.”—Sapa

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