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Presidency takes strong exception to de Lille attack

The mayor accused govt of losing it moral compass over the Dalai Lama visa saga.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - The Presidency on Friday said it takes strong exception to the attack on the South African government by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.

This follows the cancellation of the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, which was scheduled to take place in Cape Town from 13 October.

The mayor accused government of failing to provide a visa to the Dalai Lama.

De Lille on Thursday announced the gathering was suspended after the debacle led to a number of laureates pulling out of the prestigious event in protest.

She said it's clear South Africa has lost its moral compass under President Jacob Zuma's rule and will do anything to appease the Chinese government, which is a significant supporter of ANC.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj says this is inaccurate and misleading.

He adds the government was informed by the office of the Dalai Lama he will not be attending the summit, effectively cancelling his visa application.

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.

The FW de Klerk Foundation says it's very disappointed after the summit was suspended.

It is believed the summit will now be held in Rome.

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

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

He 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."

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

He said a few years ago, Chinese officials also attempted to strong-arm Italy into denying the Tibetan spiritual leader permission to enter the country.

But the deputy minister said Italy would not dance to the China's tune.

China brands the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, a separatist.

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

The previous visa denial, in 2009, was also for a peace conference.