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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?"

Hogan: Dead Minister Walking

March 29, 2009

Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa)
March 27 2009

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Health Minister
Barbara Hogan may face disciplinary action over
her public criticism of the government's visa ban
on the Dalai Lama -- but she has the support of many in her party.

Several senior ANC members interviewed by the
Mail & Guardian this week said Hogan's view that
the Dalai Lama should be allowed entry to South
Africa is shared by "significant numbers in the
party". Many were shocked at the government's hard-line stance, they said.

"We were all very surprised at the government's
decision. I have great respect for [the Dalai
Lama] and I don't understand why he was not
allowed," said a senior MP, who asked not to be named.

Another MP said a "significant section" of the
ANC agreed that the Tibetan leader should be
allowed to come, but added: "People don't fully
understand the meaning of the Chinese pressure on
the South African government."

The Dalai Lama was to have addressed a peace
conference organised by the Premier Soccer
League, but was refused an entry visa by the
South African High Commission in India, where he lives.

Although the conference was not a government
event the government was associated with it
because of its informal connection with the 2010 World Cup.

The Tibetan leader was invited by former
presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk and
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, all Nobel Peace
laureates. President Kgalema Motlanthe approved
the conference without realising that the peace
icon had been invited and it was he, with Foreign
Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who decided that
the visa application should be refused.

Hogan broke ranks on Tuesday, telling a meeting
of the South African National Aids Council in
Pretoria that the government should "apologise to
the citizens of this country, because it is in
your name that this great man, who has struggled
for the rights of his country ... has been denied
access". The visa refusal is an example of a
government that is dismissive of human rights," she said.

The Cabinet discussed her comments on Wednesday,
deciding that Motlanthe would address the issue with Hogan.

ANC national executive member Enoch Godongwana
told The Star that Hogan must be disciplined or
"do the honourable thing and resign" if she
believes the government is not committed to human rights.

But her comments drew influential endorsement,
including that of Constitutional Court judge Kate
O'Regan and the General Council of the Bar, which
said the incident drew parallels with the
apartheid government's refusal to grant the late
ANC president, Nkosi Albert Luthuli, a passport
to receive his Nobel Peace prize.

Hogan was unwilling to elaborate this week. Her
spokesperson, Ayesha Ishmail, would say only that
"the minister has said what she wanted to say on this issue".

It is understood that Hogan spoke out without
consulting anyone in government -- even President
Kgalema Motlanthe, considered her close friend.

"She always speaks her mind," said a source close
to her. "It's an issue she feels strongly about,
like many others in the ANC. People high up in
the ANC are torn. She was the only one who dared [talk about] it publicly."

Hogan did not consider the career consequences,
the source added, saying "[she] always regarded
herself as a six-month minister".

ANC sources said Hogan may be disciplined but is
unlikely to lose her Cabinet seat before the elections.

"There's great unhappiness about her comments.
It's considered a very negative trend to defy
government decisions like this," said one official.

Defending the visa ban a senior Luthuli House
official, who also did not want to be named, said
South Africa's relationship with the Chinese
government had improved since 2004, when the
Dalai Lama last visited the country.

"New agreements were made and the relationship
began to strengthen," the official said. "Our
relationship with China is important. There are
instances where ... we have to ask ourselves: will it build our relationship?

"We're governing -- our interest is much broader.
We don't disrespect the Tibetans, but in our
foreign policy consideration needs to be given to other things."

Said another leader: "He wouldn't have made an
innocent peace address -- he would've used the
opportunity, like Tutu did in the 1980s."

The cancellation of the conference, sponsored by
the Norwegian government to the tune of
R4.5-million, has prompted Norwegian government
ministers planning to meet the ANC to cancel their visit.

What they said this week

* Friday March 20 -- Thabo Masebe, President
Kgalema Motlanthe's spokesperson, South Africa:
"The attention of the world on us in relation to
us hosting the World Cup next year and we would
like that to remain ... the presence of the Dalai
Lama would bring other issues into [sic] attention."

* Monday March 23 -- Thubten Samphel, the Dalai Lama's spokesperson, India:
"Since His Holiness says he will not
inconvenience any government we at the Tibetan
administration will not issue any strong
response. But we are certainly very disappointed."

* Monday March 23 -- Geir Lundestad, director of the Nobel Institute, Norway:
"It is disappointing that South Africa, which has
received so much solidarity from the world,
doesn't want to give that solidarity to others."

* Monday March 23 -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
Nobel laureate, South Africa: "We are shamelessly
succumbing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply distressed."

* Tuesday March 24 -- Qin Gang, spokesman foreign
ministry, China: "All countries should respect
China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and
oppose Tibetan independence. We appreciate the relevant countries' measures."

* Tuesday March 24 -- Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,
foreign minister, South Africa: "If there is a
sporting event it must remain a sporting event.
We have seen how messy it can be if you begin to
pull all sorts of issues into the sporting event."

* Wednesday March 25 -- Themba Maseko, head of
government communications, South Africa: "Our
interests will be better served by making sure we
don't jeopardise our relations with China."
... and in the past

* November 26 2008 -- Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,
South Africa: "The sports boycott [against
apartheid South Africa] was one of the struggles we waged vigorously."

* April 11 1967 -- BJ Vorster, prime minister, in
a speech to Parliament, South Africa: "Sport is
an area that shouldn't be dragged into politics."

* Undated -- The Dalai Lama, Tibet's
leader-in-exile, India: "In the practice of
tolerance one's enemy is the best teacher."

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