Zuma will respond to Nobel laureates over Dalai Lama issue

​President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

​President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma will respond to the 14 Nobel laureates who wrote to him asking for a South African travel visa to be granted to the Dalai Lama.

Other than that, the presidency would not comment on the letter, his spokesperson Mac Maharaj said. “The president has received the letter and he will respond directly to the laureates,” he said. Agence France-Presse reported on Monday that in the letter to Zuma, the laureates said they were “deeply concerned about the damage that will be done to South Africa’s international image by a refusal – or failure – to grant him a visa yet again”. 

Signatories on the letter reportedly included Polish politician and and human rights activist Lech Walesa, Bangladeshi entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Northern Irish peacemakers David Trimble and John Hume. Earlier this month it was reported that the Tibetan spiritual leader had again been refused entry to the country, this time for the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. 

His representative in South Africa, Nangsa Choedon, said department officials phoned her office to say they would not be granting the visa. They had not yet received written confirmation. The summit, an annual gathering, is being held in Cape Town next month. 

The department of international relations at the time said the Dalai Lama’s visa application was a closed matter, and that he had cancelled his trip. This is the third time in five years the Dalai Lama could not secure a visa to enter South Africa. The Democratic Alliance on Tuesday said it would launch an online petition appealing to government to provide the Dalai Lama with a visa. 

“This petition will, in due course, be tabled before Parliament, so that Members of Parliament can intervene in what has become another internationally embarrassing incident caused by our government,” DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa said in a statement. “We trust that South Africans will respond favourably to our petition and trust that our government will heed the calls of many South Africans who see His Holiness’s visit as an honour for South Africa.”

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