The 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, due to be held in Cape Town later this month, will be moved to another city, mayor Patricia de Lille said on Thursday.
“The primary reason for the relocation is the fact that the South African government has refused to allow his holiness the Dalai Lama a visa to attend,” De Lille told reporters at the Civic Centre.
The majority of laureates and laureate institutions had decided not to attend in protest against the South African government’s apparent decision to deny the Dalai Lama a visa.
“In light of this appalling treatment of the Dalai Lama by the South African government, the [summit’s] permanent secretariat had no choice but to contact the Nobel laureates and institutions with a view to identifying possible dates and alternative locations so that they can participate in the Nobel summit as they intended,” De Lille said.
Last month, 14 Nobel laureates wrote to President Jacob Zuma asking that a South African travel visa be granted to the Tibetan spiritual leader, after he failed to secure the document for the third time in five years.
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.
De Lille said Zuma had failed to reply to the letter or indicate if the matter was receiving any attention.
Various cities, including Rome, which hosted the first seven editions of the event, had expressed interest.
According to De Lille, Cape Town would continue to co-host the event, even though it was likely to be held in another country.
De Lille accused government of “embarrassing the country” and “undermining South Africa’s international standing”.
“The national government has treated our requests and those of the laureates themselves with disdain, and in so doing showed that they are more intent on pleasing Beijing than with ensuring that a prestigious international event is held in South Africa, which was intended to celebrate the late Nelson Mandela and 20 years of democracy,” said De Lille.
There has been speculation that South Africa declined the Dalai Lama a visa due to pressure from China.
On Wednesday Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu criticised the government for the visa decision.
“I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government,” he said in a statement. SAPA