'Govt will be challenged on Dalai Lama debacle'

Patricia de Lille says government's treatment of the Dalai Lama will not go unchallenged.

The Dalai Lama. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille says government's treatment of the Dalai Lama will not go unchallenged.

Yesterday, De Lille announced that plans for the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates were on track.

The Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, was invited to the event which is scheduled to take place next month in the Mother City, but withdrew his visa application after delays.

This week a group of Nobel laureates cancelled their trips in protest.

De Lille says if the event does not go ahead it would be an insult to the memory of the late Nelson Mandela.

"The reason South Africa was chosen was because the Nobel laureates wanted to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela and also the 20 years of our democracy."

LAUREATES CANCEL THEIR TRIPS

Gyatso was invited to the event, but 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, 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, but cancelled in protest.

The Sonke Gender Justice group told Eyewitness News it respected and applauded the stance taken by the group of female Nobel Laureates.

During this month, 14 Nobel laureates wrote to President Jacob Zuma asking him to grant Gyatso a visa.

This is the third time in five years 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 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 Gyatso with a visa to enter the country.