Nobel laureates urge Zuma to grant Dalai Lama SA visa

The Dalai Lama had been hoping to join a Nobel peace conference in Cape Town next month.

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Picture: Facebook.

CAPE TOWN - The FW de Klerk Foundation has confirmed that 14 Nobel peace laureates have written to President Jacob Zuma urging him to issue the Dalai Lama with a visa to visit South Africa.

The foundation sent a similar letter to Zuma earlier this month.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India and is at loggerheads with China over Tibet, had been hoping to join a Nobel peace conference in Cape Town next month but withdrew his visa application after being told it would be unsuccessful.

The foundation's Dave Steward told Eyewitness News the laureates have written to the president individually, after signing a letter penned by his organisation.

The original document features pleas by the Chief Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and de Klerk Foundations.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation maintained normal procedure was followed with the Dalai Lama's visa application and the application was withdrawn.

China subsequently thanked South Africa for taking the "correct position" on the alleged visa refusal.

Previous delays in dealing with the Dalai Lama's visa requests by the African National Congress government have angered South Africans who see it as a betrayal of the country's commitment to human rights since apartheid ended 20 years ago.

China brands the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet, a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is seeking more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

A South African court ruled two years ago that 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 and South 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 laureate Archbishop Tutu in Cape Town in October 2011. The previous visa denial, in 2009, was also for a peace conference.