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Parties react to Dalai Lama visa debacle

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Some political parties on Friday reacted to the relocation of the Nobel Peace laureates’ summit, and conflicting statements about the Dalai Lama’s visa application.

The Democratic Alliance Youth accused President Jacob Zuma of betraying the principles of a free, just, and fair society by allegedly denying the Dalai Lama a visa to enter South Africa.

“He also betrayed youth leaders from across the globe,” chairman Yusuf Cassim said in a statement’

He said a youth summit was due to take place parallel to the Nobel Peace laureates’ summit, which the Tibetan spiritual leader wanted to attend in Cape Town this month.

“It was going to be the first time that the youth summit was being held in Africa. Sadly, since it became evident that laureates were withdrawing, hundreds of young leaders from across the globe have decided not to come,” said Cassim.

“Should the youth summit still go ahead, it would only be attended by 128 students, while the summit is usually attended by some 400 participants.”

He said this highlighted the government’s lack of commitment to youth development.

“I would like to express my sincere apologies towards these young leaders, on behalf of our failing ANC government.”

Last month, 14 Nobel laureates wrote to Zuma asking that a South African travel visa be granted to the Dalai Lama after he failed to secure the document for the third time in five years.

On Thursday, Agence France-Presse quoted the Dalai Lama as saying he was refused entry into the country.

“The Nobel Peace summit scheduled to be held in South Africa to honour the legacy of our fellow laureate, the late Nelson Mandela, has been cancelled as the South African government wouldn’t allow me to attend it,” the Dalai Lama said in a speech in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala.

“This is sort of bullying a simple person.”

The City of Cape Town said on Thursday the Nobel Peace laureates summit would be moved to another country.

Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota said the government was putting the interests of another country ahead of its own people.

“The interests that are paramount, that we must protect, are the interests of the people of South Africa,” Lekota said on the sidelines of the press briefing in Johannesburg on Friday.

“Instead of prioritising that, they have prioritised the interests of some other government in some other country. It was subjected to a decision and the pressure from [a] government that is not accountable to the people of South Africa.”

Meanwhile, the Western Cape branch of the ANC asked Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille to apologise for “spreading lies” about the Dalai Lama’s visa application.

“The DA and De Lille cooked up a stink for party political gains around the Dalai Lama,” ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman said in a statement.

“The facts are that South Africa never rejected an application by the Dalai Lama to enter the country. He withdrew his applications every time even before the process could be completed.”

The party demanded that De Lille prove her accusation or apologise.

On Thursday, De Lille told reporters the primary reason for the relocation of the Nobel Peace laureates’ summit was the government’s refusal to allow the Dalai Lama a visa to attend.

Earlier, the presidency said De Lille’s comments were misleading.

“The mayor has accused government of not providing a visa to his holiness the Dalai Lama to participate in the 14th World Summit of Nobel peace laureates… which in her view led to the cancellation of the summit. This is inaccurate and misleading,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

Maharaj said the South African government was informed by the Dalai Lama’s office that he would not be attending the summit, “thus effectively cancelling his visa application”. SAPA

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