A row is brewing over a planned visit to South Africa by the Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the Sunday Independent reported.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the newspaper that he had invited the Dalai Lama to attend his 80th birthday party in Cape Town on October 7.
The South African government, however, appeared to be reluctant to give the Dalai Lama a visa for fear of offending its ally — the Chinese government.
“I have invited His Holiness the Dalai Lama to attend my 80th birthday celebrations in Cape Town,” Tutu said.
“I am delighted that His Holiness has accepted the invitation. I am hopeful that our government will facilitate the necessary travel documentation and look forward to welcoming my friend in October.”
The Dalai Lama’s representative in South Africa Sonam Tenzing confirmed the invitation from Tutu.
But “diplomatic sources” told the Sunday Independent that the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, had applied for a visa from the South African High Commission in New Delhi in June.
His officials were told that the immigration section required political guidance from Pretoria on the application.
By Saturday the Dalai Lama’s officials had received no response from the Department of Home Affairs.
The Dalai Lama’s officials were told that the High Commission in New Delhi had not received the visa application. The officials will apply again on Monday.
Ministry spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said on Saturday the Dalai Lama had not applied for a visa in New Delhi.
“As soon as he applies, New Delhi will alert Pretoria and his visa application will be considered.”
Mamoepa refused to speculate on whether the government was likely to grant a visa in the light of Pretoria’s close ties with the Chinese government which opposes all foreign visits by the Dalai Lama.
“The visa will be considered on its merits, according to normal procedures,” he said.
China regards the Dalai Lama as a subversive because he has campaigned for the independence or at least political autonomy of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama was refused a visa to South Africa in March 2009. He was due to attend a conference with Tutu and fellow Nobel laureate FW de Klerk. — Sapa