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Damning details emerge on Dalai Lama visa saga

Guy Lieberman claims an official asked the spiritual leader to withdraw his visa application.

The Dalai Lama. Picture: AFP.

Guy Lieberman claims an official from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation asked the Tibetan spiritual leader to withdraw his visa application.

This claim contradicts government's assertion that the Dalai Lama wasn't denied a visa, but instead cancelled his plans to travel to South Africa while his application was still being considered.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was due to attend the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town this month which has since been suspended.

The City of Cape Town has said it's lost an economic opportunity of about R60 million with the probable relocation of the summit.

Lieberman says a government official requested the Dalai Lama withdraw his application.

"They understood that if the Dalai Lama withdrew, then they could say that they didn't deny the visa."

The department says it's not prepared to comment on the matter at this stage.

The Democratic Alliance has meanwhile challenged the Presidency and the Ministers of Home Affairs and International Relations to go on record and confirm South Africa was in a position to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama.

Previous delays in dealing with the Dalai Lama's visa requests by the African National Congress-led 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.