Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says the government was planning to grant the Dalai Lama a visa, according to a newspaper report on Wednesday.
The Star newspaper said it had asked Motlanthe if the government would have granted the Tibetan spiritual leader a visa if he had not cancelled his trip to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations at the weekend.
Motlanthe replied, according to the Star: “Of course, he has been here before. I don’t see why it should be an issue at all.”
Motlanthe, who recently concluded a trip to China, denied that there had been pressure from Beijing not to grant the Dalai Lama the visa.
It is widely believed the government had buckled under pressure from China — its biggest trading partner — which deems the Tibetan spiritual leader a “splittist” and discourages foreign leaders from hosting him. — Sapa