De Lille: Govt has 'embarrassed' SA

Patricia de Lille says govt undermined SA’s international standing by denying the Dalai Lama a visa.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille says the South African government has embarrassed the country and undermined its international standing.

The mayor, together with f ormer President FW de Klerk , yesterday announced that the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, scheduled to take place from 13 October, will probably be relocated.

The primary reason is government's apparent refusal to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.

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

She says 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 (ANC).

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

The mayor has expressed deep anger and disappointment.

At the same time, the City of Cape Town says it's lost an economic opportunity of about R60 million with the probable relocation of the summit.

De Lille said the event would have provided invaluable international exposure for Cape Town, which in turn would have boosted tourism and job creation.

She said this summit would've seen the largest gathering of Nobel peace laureates in the history of the even t.

"The attending peace laureates agree that in the absence of granting said visa to the Dalai Lama, to withhold their collective attendance in protest because of that decision."

Meanwhile, de Klerk said national government is to blame.

"What we achieved in South Africa is perhaps one of the best examples of the vision Alfred Nobel had when he instituted the prize more than a century ago."

The Nelson Mandela Foundation says the suspension of the summit has not taken away from its plans to celebrate the legacy of the late statesman.

The foundation has expressed its disappointment at not being able to host peace laureates from all over the world as the conference could now be moved to a different country.

The foundation's Sello Hatang says, "It's a pity that it couldn't go ahead and we're hoping that issues like this can be sorted out sooner in future so that we then don't derail important initiatives such as this."

The city is in the process of cancelling contracts with service providers for 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.