Dalai Lama debacle: Nobel Laureates cancel trip to SA

Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee have all cancelled their trips.

Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama. Picture: Facebook.com

CAPE TOWN - In the latest repercussion over the Dalai Lama visa debacle, a group of female Nobel Laureates have now cancelled their trip to Cape Town in protest against government's alleged refusal to allow the spiritual leader entry to South Africa.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India and is at loggerheads with China over Tibet, had been hoping to join the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates conference in Cape Town, but withdrew his visa application after being told it would be unsuccessful.

American political activist Jody Williams, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee were also due to attend but it's now emerged they've pulled out.

This is the third time in five years the Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, has cancelled a trip to South Africa over visa issues.

The Sonke Gender Justice group's Czerina Patel says they were looking forward to holding a dialogue with the prominent women.

Earlier this month, 14 Nobel Laureates wrote to President Jacob Zuma asking him to grant the Tibetan spiritual leader a visa.

Previous delays in dealing with Gyatso's visa requests by the 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 Gyatso, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet, a separatist.

Gyatso says he's seeking more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

A South African court ruled two years ago that officials had "unreasonably delayed" a decision on granting Gyatso 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, Gyatso 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.