/ 31 March 2009

Buthelezi to push ahead with Dalai Lama application

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi will push ahead with a court application to force the minister of home affairs to grant the Dalai
Lama a visa, his adviser said on Tuesday.

Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said a meeting was held with a judge in the Western Cape Division of the High Court on Tuesday morning, in which the government argued that it could not legally be forced to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama.

”We went in saying that it was unconstitutional to deny a visa to the Dalai Lama,” Oriani-Ambrosini said.

”The government’s reply was that we did not deny the Dalai Lama a visa, we asked him not to apply for one so therefore we cannot be forced to grant the visa.

”But we will push ahead with the application. We think this is outrageous.”

Oriani-Ambrosini said he expected the matter to be heard in the coming days.

In March 1969 the Dalai Lama set up a Tibetan government-in-exile in India.

The government had drawn criticism from human rights organisations and even members of its own Cabinet when it denied the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a 2010 World Cup-related peace conference to have been held in Johannesburg last week.

The conference was indefinitely postponed after Nobel peace laureates FW De Klerk and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu pulled out as a result of government’s decision.

”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.”

Zuma defends government stance
Meanwhile, African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday backed the government’s stance on denying the Dalai Lama a visa to visit the country.

Government ”must have considered a number of issues” in taking its decision, Zuma told a business breakfast hosted by the South African Institute of Race Relations in Johannesburg.

”There are relations between countries that have specific protocol and certain things to be respected in one form or the other,” he said.

The ANC’s presidential candidate said the government took decisions which were informed ”by the nature of their relations with other countries”.

”As I understand it they are not saying that the Dalai Lama cannot come to South Africa. I think they are saying March, the month March, is a serious month between the Dalai Lama and China in a very specific way,” he said.

Zuma added that there were a number of countries who refused the Dalai Lama entry in March.

He said South Africa was not the first country to take the kind of action that it did.

”You know that South Africa is not the first one … Problems arose between France and China because of the Dalai Lama, and France had to later apologise … This is not an isolated agenda South Africa has taken,” Zuma said.

He said South Africa’s foreign policy would remain the same even though there is a new ANC leadership.

Zuma also came out in defence of former president Thabo Mbeki’s approach on Zimbabwe.

South Africa was widely criticised for its ”quiet diplomacy” stance on its troubled neighbour.

Zuma said that approaches followed by other countries had not worked in tackling the Zimbabwean crisis.

”No one could offer a better alternative,” he said.

He said South Africa’s approach was the only one which yielded any results, and all those that were critical of the country because of its stance should be aware of this.

Zimbabwe had since formed an inclusive government tasked with rebuilding the former ”bread basket’s” tattered economy, he said. — Sapa