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Nobel Laureate summit suspension costs CT R60m

A decision to suspend the event was announced by Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille on Thursday.

The Dalai Lama. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Management at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) say all the preparation it's put into staging the 14th annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates has been in vain.

A decision to suspend the event was announced by Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille on Thursday.

It will now be held in another city.

Several Nobel laureates have boycotted the conference after the Dalai Lama was forced to cancel his trip to South Africa due to another debacle surrounding his visa.

The CTICC's Julie-May Ellingson says it would have been a world class event.

"Obviously a lot of work does go into a conference of this nature, given the high-profile delegates that were attending the conference. It's very unfortunate that despite all this work, we won't be able to host it."

At the same time, the City of Cape Town says the last minute suspension of the event will cost the Mother City dearly.

The municipality believes it's lost up to R60 million in revenue.

De Lille says, "The attending peace laureates have agreed that in the absence of granting a visa to the Dalai Lama, to withhold their collective attendance in protest because of that decision."

She has accused President Jacob Zuma's government of shaming the legacy of former president Nelson Mandela.

She said it's clear the country has lost its moral compass under Zuma's rule and will do anything to appease the Chinese government, which is a significant supporter of the African National Congress.

"Given the continued intransigence of the South African government on this matter, this eventuality appears unlikely at best."

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the decision to suspend the conference will do little to improve investor confidence.

The chamber's Janine Myburgh says, "the dark picture will weigh on potential investors. There are always consequences for bad decisions which must be remembered."

The FW de Klerk Foundation has also expressed disappointment following the suspension of the summit.

Previous delays in dealing with the Dalai Lama's visa requests by the ANC 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,

Because of the delay, the Dalai Lama was unable to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday in Cape Town in October 2011. The previous visa denial, in 2009, was also for a peace conference.

ITALY FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEPT SLAMS 'SHORT-SIGHTED' GOVT

Italy's Foreign Affairs Department has added its voice of disapproval over the Dalai Lama visa saga.

Eyewitness News spoke to Italy's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lapo Pistelli, in Cape Town on Thursday evening.

Pistelli didn't hold back, saying the South African government is short-sighted not to have granted the Dalai Lama a visa.

"My good advice to South Africa on a friendly basis would be: please do not think about your political agenda."

He said the Dalai Lama is a global icon that should be treated with respect.

Pistelli said a few years ago Chinese officials also attempted to strong-arm Italy into denying the Tibetan spiritual leader permission to go to that country.

But he said Italy would not dance to the superpower's tune and the Dalai Lama regularly visits that country.