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Organiser slams snub to Dalai Lama

March 26, 2009

By Lebogang Seale
Cape Times (South Africa)
March 25, 2009

The government's decision to deny the Dalai Lama
an entry visa into the country may well have cost
the country its peace conference.

On Tuesday, conveners of the peace conference
hastily postponed the event indefinitely because
of the controversy around the government's
decision to bar the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

This means South Africa's Hollywood princess and
newly appointed UN Peace Ambassador, Charlize
Theron, will not be visiting the country.

'It's a sad day for South Africa'

The Dalai Lama - the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize
laureate - was among the international
dignitaries billed to attend Friday's peace
conference in Johannesburg. The conference had
the backing of South African laureates Nelson
Mandela, Desmond Tutu and F W de Klerk.

Tutu and De Klerk have said they will boycott the
event if the Dalai Lama is not given a visa.

A visibly disappointed Chief Mandla Mandela, who
is Mandela's grandson, lashed out at the
government for treating the Tibetan leader as if
he were persona non grata in the country.

"To deny someone like the Dalai Lama, whom all
other laureates hold in high esteem, is sad,"
said the chief, who is one of the aborted
conference's organisers, with Premier Soccer League chairperson Irvin Khoza.

"For me and my grandfather - this rejection is
really tainting our efforts at democracy," he said.

"It's a sad day for South Africa and for Africa
(because) we are nation that is renowned for our
efforts for peace in countries like Burundi and Sudan."

Although he had not spoken to his grandfather
about it, he was convinced Mandela supported Tutu
and De Klerk's decision to boycott the event.

Thabo Masebe, speaking for President Kgalema
Motlanthe, reiterated the government's position
that the Dalai Lama's visit would not be in the best interests of the country.

Asked if South Africa had consulted China before
making the decision, Masebe said: "This was a
decision taken by the South African government
alone, and not any other government."

Asked whether South Africa could review its
decision before 2010, he said: "No. It will
distract attention from the World Cup."

Meanwhile, China's ministerial counsellor at its
embassy in Pretoria, Dai Bing, was quoted on
Tuesday as saying his government had urged
Pretoria to bar the Dalai Lama, or risk damaging
relations between his country and South Africa.
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