South Africa has no policy barring the Dalai Lama from entering the country, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Thursday.
Addressing journalists about President Jacob Zuma’s state visit to China next week, Nkoana-Mashabane deftly side-stepped questions on why the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader had been refused entry to South Africa several times, and whether South Africa was doing China’s bidding in this regard.
“The answer is South Africa has its own independent foreign policy and there’s no individual in any corner of the world which has been banished to enter or visit South Africa,” she said.
“The Tibet region is considered to be an autonomous region of China. South Africa openly adopted a one-China policy and that was under the leadership of Madiba [former president Nelson Mandela].”
South Africa’s one-China policy rejected Tibetan independence.
Nkoana-Mashabane could not confirm that China’s human rights track record would be up for discussion during the state visit.
“We have one of the very few constitutions in the world that I know has human rights embedded in the actual constitution itself so there’s no us looking the other way and us not defending fiercely that which we are known for which is based on the spirit of ubuntu,” she said.
“I do not know of any country which does not engage China politically, economically and socially, so what we do everyday… is to continue doing South Africa’s bidding of what we believe to be defending all the rights that we fought for.”
In October, the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates which was due to be held in Cape Town was suspended and moved to Rome, Italy, as a result of a planned boycott by fellow laureates who were unhappy about the Dalai Lama not being able to obtain a visa.
It was the third time in five years he could not secure a visa to enter South Africa.
At the time the international relations department said the Dalai Lama’s visa application was a closed matter, and that he had cancelled his trip. SAPA