Kowtowing is the despicable way, says Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Wednesday accused South Africa of obliging China in an explosive row over a visa for the Dalai Lama, accusing Pretoria of putting trade ties above democratic values.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe tried to tamp down the dispute, telling the Star newspaper that South Africa was ready to grant the Dalai Lama a visa when the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader decided to cancel the trip.

“Of course, he has been here before, I don’t see why it should be an issue at all,” Motlanthe said.

Tutu has bashed the government’s handling of the visa request, calling President Jacob Zuma’s administration “worse than the apartheid government”.

In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Tutu dismissed Motlanthe’s explanation and said the government was caving in to China.

“The deputy president says ‘No, this thing was in the pipeline’. In the pipeline? It’s not weeks before he should have left, it’s hours, and why have [they] kept it all so much in abeyance and making everybody uncertain? Why?” Tutu said.

“His explanation just leaves you even more upset instead of making things better. Because you see they could have told us or told the Dalai Lama a heck of a long time earlier ‘you are getting the visa or you are not getting the visa’.”

“Here we are kowtowing … it’s a despicable way,” Tutu said.

“It doesn’t do much to improve their relationship with China because China needs much of what we have, I mean minerals and so on, and they would continue” to trade with South Africa, Tutu added.

“It’s just unconscionable that we who suffered under an oppressive regime, should be doing the kind of things that really are done by oppressive governments.”

South Africa has repeatedly denied any influence by China over the visa, and said the Dalai Lama was late handing in his application.

“We are not bullied, we are not pressured, we are not influenced by anybody in making decisions,” International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said.

The Dalai Lama’s spokesperson Tenzin Taklha said his office had begun the visa process in June, and that on Tuesday the South African embassy in India was not returning their calls.

“His Holiness was scheduled to leave today. It became impossible. He felt it was too much of an inconvenience. His Holiness’s policy is not to cause inconvenience to his hosts,” he said.

‘Cowardice and deceit’
Tutu turns 80 on Friday and had invited his longtime friend and fellow Nobel Peace laureate the Dalai Lama to give an inaugural lecture at his Peace Centre.

As a luminary of the anti-apartheid movement, Tutu is widely regarded as the voice of the national conscience. His condemnation of the government reverberated with other key figures in the struggle for democracy.

“Today all freedom-loving South Africans bow their heads in shame at the brazen insult thrown at two Nobel Peace Prize laureates,” said Ahmed Kathrada and Barbara Hogan, both political prisoners during apartheid.

“We are further deeply embarrassed and angered by the inept and unprincipled attempts to justify the delay in granting a visa on bureaucratic grounds. This hints at cowardice and deceit of the worst kind,” they said.

About 500 people marched through the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where the Dalai Lama would have given a lecture next week, in protest at the visa debacle. — AFP


My hardest story: Reporting on being queer in Tunisia

Reporting on queer issues is always tough. But Tunisia was something else

South Africa could use a communist party

The SACP is not building socialism, or even social democracy. Sadly, it has become just another party advancing the politics of patronage

Miners speak out against Sibanye

Not a year into buying Lonmin, Sibanye is accused of mistreating the mineworkers who were injured eight years ago during the Marikana massacre. But the platinum giant says it is a miscommunication. Athandiwe Saba and Paul Botes visit Marikana to find out the truth

Press Releases

Wellcome Trust award goes to UKZN mental health champion

Dr Andr? J van Rensburg, a senior researcher in UKZN's Centre for Rural Health, received the Wellcome Trust Discretionary Award.

MTN gears up to deliver improved customer service

On 28 January, the first batch of MTN contract customers will be migrated onto the new customer service platform.

Request for expression of interest on analysis of quality and outcome indicators for regional and district hospitals in Lesotho

Introduction The Ministry of Health of Lesotho with the support of the World Bank funded Nutrition and Health Systems Strengthening...

MiX Telematics enhances in-vehicle video camera solution

The company has launched the gold MiX Vision Bureau Service, which includes driver-coaching tools to ensure risky driver behaviour can be addressed proactively and efficiently.

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA