Dalai Lama visa timeframe in question

Lawyers for the IFP and Cope said government’s refusal to issue the visa was unreasonable.

The Dalai Lama.

JOHANNESBURG - Government's refusal to make a decision on the issuing of the Dalai Lama's visa was irrational and unreasonable, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) heard on Monday.

Both the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and Congress of the People (Cope) appealed an earlier decision that said the issue was moot because the Tibetan spiritual leader had cancelled his trip to South Africa.

The Dalai Lama was invited to country to attended Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday party, but pulled out of the trip after his application went unanswered.

IFP lawyers told the Bloemfontein court that the case cannot be considered moot because that would allow government to act unlawfully in future.

Representatives added it was in the interests of justice for them to consider the case.

But government's legal team said if the Dalai Lama had not withdrawn his application, it would have been approved.

The fact that it was withdrawn made it impossible for the Home Affairs Department to make a decision, government lawyers insist.

However, SCA judges asked why it had taken then Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlaimini-Zuma so long to make a decision.

Judges added she had never given any explanation for the delay.

At the time, Tutu claimed that government's response showed it was worse than the apartheid regime.