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Dalai Lama invited to SA – again

October 23, 2011

 

THE Dalai Lama may apply for a  South African visa for the third time  in two years after IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi invited him to  attend a prayer meeting on Human  Rights Day next March.
The fresh visa application of Tibet’s spiritual leader will be yet another headache for President Jacob Zuma.
In his letter of invitation, Buthelezi  wrote to the Dalai Lama: “Twice I  have planned and hoped to meet with  you to pray together, receive your  spiritual guidance and discuss the  state of the world and its politics.”

Yesterday, the IFP and COPE hit  government with court papers accusing them of breaching the constitution by ignoring the Dalai  Lama’s recent visa application.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond  Tutu lashed out at Zuma’s government 10 days ago, calling it a “disgrace”. “You don’t represent me. You  represent your own interests and I  am warning you, I am really warning  you, out of love, I am warning you  like I warned the nationalists, one  day we will start praying for the  defeat of the ANC government,” he  said.

This was after the departments of  Home Affairs, International  Relations and the Presidency passed  the buck among each other over the  application, delaying a decision until  the Dalai Lama was forced to call off  his trip, missing Tutu’s 80th birthday.

It was the second time government  had “ignored” a visa application by  the Dalai Lama, creating the impression that Zuma was bent on  kowtowing to China, and sparking  protests in several cities and university campuses.

The urgent application by Buthelezi and COPE president Mosiuoa  Lekota lodged in the Western Cape  High Court yesterday argues that  Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana  Dlamini-Zuma acted unlawfully by  passing the visa application on to  International Relations – which has  “no powers under the act to make  any determination on the granting of  a visa”.

They also called on Archbishop  Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the student  groups and non-governmental organisations who recently protested  at government’s treatment of the  Dalai Lama, to join the case as amicus curiae (friends of the court).

Top immigration lawyer Gary  Eisenberg told a COPE and IFP press  conference in parliament yesterday:  “This case is all about the Bill of  Rights and [government’s] flagrant  violation in not processing the visa  application.”

Speaking at the same conference,  IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said  the Immigration Act did not allow  the Minister of Home Affairs to  “duck, dive and run away [from visa  applications] like a guilty, scolded  child”.

The court application will be heard  on November 22, and if successful,  could pave the way for the Tibetan  spiritual leader to get a visa for the  event on Human Rights Day on  March 21 next year.

Government spokespeople were  caught off guard by the sudden court  application.

Presidency spokesmen Mac Maharaj and Harold Maloka insisted  that only the International Relations  department could speak on the Dalai  Lama’s visas.
When told that COPE and the IFP  were arguing that International Relations had no legal right to grant  visas, Maloka would only say that  the matter had been handled by  International Relations all along.

Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie  Mamoepa refused to comment,  claiming that Dlamini-Zuma had not  yet been served with the legal papers. “We will respond once the papers have been served,” he said.

International Relations spokesman Clayson Monyela would only  say: “We’ll respond to the court case  in court.”

Oriani-Ambrosini said the Dalai  Lama’s staff were told openly by the  South African High Commission in  India that the decision to grant him a  visa was a political one, and that he  should get “his people” in South  Africa to put pressure on the authorities.

“The Dalai Lama approached government as early as April for a visa  but was told that he was too early and he should come back at a later time. He did so at exactly the time he  was told to apply. Government’s conduct led to the effective denial of an entry visa to the Dalai Lama,” Oriani-Ambrosini said.
When he worked in the Department of Home Affairs for 10 years,  visas were regularly processed for  “VIPs” within 20 minutes, he said.
Yet after the high commission finally accepted the Dalai Lama’s visa application this year, it “sat with them for weeks without any action”.
Home Affairs and International  Relations “appeared unable or, more  likely, unwilling to come to a decision. This is a clear and blatant  case of a public officer unreasonably  failing to take a decision,” say the  court papers.

A supporting affidavit from Sonam Tenzing, the Dalai Lama’s representative in South Africa, says the South  African High Commissioner to India, Sehloho Moloi, repeatedly told the  Dalai Lama’s staff that he needed  “clearance” from Pretoria before the  visa could be processed.

At one point, the high commission even returned the Dalai Lama’s visa  application, instructing his staff to apply to a private global visa company known as VFS.

The IFP took the government to court in 2009 after they “ignored” the  Dalai Lama’s first visa application on  the grounds that his visit would distract attention from the 2010 Soccer  World Cup.
Oriani-Ambrosini said that as this  application was still pending, the facts of the cases would be put together.
Government has until Monday to  say whether they oppose the application.
Cosatu could not be reached for  comment yesterday but it is unlikely  they will join the IFP and COPE’s  court case because, although they  condemned “the forked-tongue communication and lack of openness  throughout the entire saga”, they  said the Dalai Lama was pro-Israel  and supported the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.
http://www.dispatch.co.za/news/article/2169
 

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