Peace Laureates summit on track, despite Dalai Lama debacle

The Dalai Lama was invited to the event scheduled for next month but he withdrew his visa application.

The Dalai Lama. Picture:

CAPE TOWN - The City of Cape Town says preparations for the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates are on track.

Mayor Patricia de Lille made the announcement during a sitting of the Cape Town City Council today.

The Dalai Lama was invited to the event scheduled for next month but he withdrew his visa application after it appeared government was again going to deny him entry.

De Lille says Nobel laureates including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have written to all fellow Peace Prize winners, urging them to attend the summit.

However, a group of Nobel Laureates indicated they had cancelled their trips to South Africa in protest against the South African government's reluctance to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.

American political activist Jody Williams, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee were due to attend the summit in Cape Town next month.

De Lille warned that the government's treatment of the Tibetan spiritual leader would not go unchallenged.

She said if the summit did not go ahead for one reason or another, it would be an insult to the memory of late Nelson Mandela.

Earlier, the Sonke Gender Justice group told Eyewitness News it respected and applauded the stance taken by the group of female Nobel laureates who cancelled their trip.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance launched an online petition appealing to the South African government to provide the Dalai Lama with a visa to enter the country.