Dalai Lama cancels SA trip

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation says it considers the matter closed.

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) says it considers the matter closed now that it has received confirmation that the Dalai Lama has officially cancelled his planned visit to South Africa.

The department's Nelson Kgwete says at the time it was notified of the cancelled plans, it was still processing the spiritual leader's visa application.

"Now that we have received the written confirmation from the office of his holiness that he has cancelled his visit, we consider the matter to be closed because the visa application process will be discontinued."

The department says it cannot be blamed for the Dalai Lama's decision to withdraw his visa application.

Authorities say in the last two debacles, the spiritual leader cancelled his applications while they were still being processed.

Speaking from China, the department's Clayson Monyela said the department cannot be held responsible for personal decisions taken by the spiritual leader.

Earlier today, the Dalai Lama's representative in South Africa Nangsa Choedon told news agency Reuters that they had received informal contact that his holiness would not be granted a visa for the third time in five years.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille had earlier urged the relevant authorities to approve a visa application from the Dalai Lama in an effort to spare the country international embarrassment.

A court ruled officials had "unreasonably delayed" a decision on granting the Dalai Lama a visa in 2011, largely out of fear of angering China, now a major African trading partner and investor.

Because of the delay, the Dalai Lama was unable to attend the 80th birthday of his friend and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Cape Town in October 2011. The previous visa denial, in 2009, was also for a peace conference.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India and is at loggerheads with Beijing over Tibet, had been hoping to attend a meeting of Nobel peace laureates in Cape Town next month.

The visa denial is likely to fuel speculation about Beijing's sway over Pretoria.

"We have informally received contact his holiness won't get his visa application," Choedon told Reuters.

Additional information by Reuters