Women Nobel laureates cancel SA trip over Dalai Lama’s visa

Women Nobel laureates have cancelled their trip to South Africa because the country has denied the Dalai Lama a travel visa, Sonke Gender Justice said on Wednesday.

“Sonke Gender Justice was looking forward to hosting four women Nobel Peace laureates in Cape Town next month during the World Summit of Nobel Laureates, but they are no longer coming,” the organisation said in a statement. 

“[The women] cancelled their planned visit after South Africa’s refusal [once again] to issue a visa to Nobel Peace laureate his holiness the Dalai Lama for the upcoming summit, and China’s public declaration thanking South Africa for blocking the spiritual leader from entering South Africa.” 

The laureates were American political activist Jody Williams, Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and a representative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

This is the third time in five years the Dalai Lama could not secure a visa to enter South Africa. Earlier this month, 14 Nobel laureates wrote to President Jacob Zuma asking for a South African travel visa to be granted to the Dalai Lama. The presidency confirmed that Zuma received the letter and he would respond directly to the laureates. 

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 Poland’s Lech Walesa, Bangladeshi entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, Ebadi, 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. – Sapa

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