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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Dalai Lama to speak at 2010 ceremony (Note article date)

April 2, 2009

ÜGEN VOS
The Citizen (UK)
April 1, 2009

JOHANNEBSURG -- In what appears to be a dramatic
reversal, the office of the Presidency yesterday
extended an official invitation to the Dalai Lama
to address the opening ceremony of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Government spokesman Esther Eggheart yesterday
confirmed that interim President Kgalema
Mothlanthe had personally written to the Dalai
Lama on Monday. The issue of a visa was unlikely to arise again, said Eggheart.

The Tibetan spiritual leader would, however, have
to refrain from making any "political utterances"
during his stay in South Africa, and his World
Cup speech would be written by an ANC committee
likely to include Ronnie Kasrils and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

The Dalai Lama would be assigned an escort from
the VIP Protection Unit "to ensure his personal
safety" and to "ensure he doesn’t get into
trouble." He would "unfortunately not be able to
fraternise with local Buddhists," but would be
given the chance to address members of the Rhema church.

The change of heart comes despite the Department
of Foreign Affairs saying earlier that the Dalai
Lama was not welcome in South Africa and would
not be until "perhaps his next incarnation,
hopefully well after the World Cup is over. We
have nothing against him and wish him a long, long, long life."

The government’s decision to withhold a visa from
the Dalai Lama earlier this month was widely
condemned. He was invited to attend a 2010 peace
conference by Nobel peace laureates FW de Klerk,
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.

De Klerk, Tutu and Mandela subsequently withdrew from the event.

"It is government’s prerogative to issue any visa or not," said Eggheart.

"You must remember we were never consulted about
the March visit. Now we know all the facts and we
are granting him a visa because we will be fully
prepared. He will be registered in our books as a Chinese import."

Asked to comment, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel
said: "Who is he? What does he want a visa for? What’s his credit rating?

"Why can’t he be satisfied with a Mastercard?"

In preparation for his visit, the ANC Youth
League is practising toyi-toying to the chant of "Bring me OM-shini Wami, OM."

Objections can be lodged until noon today.
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