Lobby group applauds Nobel laureates for cancelling SA trip

Three female activists called off their trip after the Dalai Lama visa debacle.

The Dalai Lama

CAPE TOWN - Lobby group, Sonke Gender Justice, says it respects and applauds the stance taken by a group of female Nobel laureates who cancelled their trip to South Africa in protest over the country'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 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town next month. But they have now cancelled their trips after a row over granting a visa to the Dalai Lama.

The Sonke Gender Justice group's Czerina Patel says they applaud the ladies for the stance they have taken as this sends the correct message to the South African authorities.

"We very much respect and applaud the women for choosing not to come and take a stand because we feel like it sends the right message on human rights."

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

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, but withdrew his visa application after being told it would be unsuccessful.

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.