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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama is free to visit SA any time

May 17, 2009

The Independent on Online (South Africa)
May 14, 2009

The Dalai Lama is welcome to visit South Africa,
International Relations and Co-operation Minister
Maite Nkoane-Mashabane said on Thursday.

However, she added that nobody may abuse the
country's pro-human rights stance for their own agenda.

"The Dalai Lama is more than free, like any other
citizen of the world who would want to, to visit
South Africa. South Africa does not discriminate
against anyone," the newly appointed minister told reporters in Pretoria.

She added that South Africa's foreign policy was
"underpinned by human rights, but that does not
mean it can be misinterpreted in the interests of certain quarters".

The Dalai Lama was refused a visa to attend a
peace conference linked to the 2010 Soccer World
Cup in South Africa in March, triggering an
outcry that saw the event postponed indefinitely.

Pretoria initially said it did not want his
presence to overshadow the aim of the conference,
but later conceded it had also acted to protect its economic ties with Beijing.

The conference coincided with the 50th
anniversary of the failed uprising against China
in Tibet and China feared that the Buddhist
leader would use the conference as a political platform.

Nkoane-Mashabane said South Africa hoped to
strengthen ties with China and foresaw no change in policy towards the country.

"We've got very sound relations with China and
that needs to be strengthened and we will do so," she said.

The main thrust of foreign policy would remain
unchanged, including South Africa's controversial
handling of the political situation in Zimbabwe.

Asked whether South Africa would press President
Robert Mugabe to step down, she said it was for
the people of Zimbabwe to decide, while South
Africa would focus on helping to rebuild its northern neighbour.

"They have voted and they can do so again."

She defended one of South Africa's recent most
controversial foreign policy decisions - voting
in the UN Security Council against sanctions
against Myanmar's military junta on the grounds
that the regime did not constitute a threat to
international peace and security.

She said the Security Council was not the right forum to deal with the issue.

"We should not mix these things up."

Nkoane-Mashabane said South Africa would continue
to make the 15-nation Southern African
Development Community (SADC) region and Africa
the primary focus of its foreign policy.

The name change of her department, from foreign
affairs to international relations and
co-operation, was a bid by government to ensure a
holistic approach to foreign relations which reflected a developmental agenda.

"The name change moves from the premise that
foreign policy is based upon and an advancement
of domestic priorities at international level," she said.

The name changes were aimed at making the state
machinery more efficient and service-delivery oriented.

"Similarly, the changes will ensure alignment of
government structures with the electoral mandate
and our developmental needs. The thrust of these
structural changes is to advance our central
objective of creating a better life for all South Africans."

She explained that there were discussions about
establishing a developmental agency which would
assist in the pursuit of the notion of a better Africa in a better world.

"It is our view that such an agency, if
established, will enhance our developmental
agenda, which continues to rest on the key
pillars of our foreign policy, namely
consolidation of the African agenda,
strengthening South-South co-operation,
strengthening North-South relations,
strengthening political and economic relations,
as well as participating in the global system of governance." - Sapa
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