SA govt criticised over Dalai Lama visa saga
The SA govt has been accused of buckling to pressure from China at the Nobel Peace Laureates summit in Rome.
JOHANNESBURG - While several Nobel Peace Prize laureates have praised former president Nelson Mandela for being the ultimate icon of peace, the South African government has come under criticism for buckling to pressure from China.
Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille is co-hosting the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Rome.
The summit was supposed to be held in the Mother City but the Dalai Lama wasn't given a visa, resulting in the withdrawal of a number of delegates.
De Lille cited the primary reason as government's failure to grant the spiritual leader a visa.
Government says the Dalai Lama withdrew his application but China later thanked the government for blocking him.
Several laureates then cancelled, resulting in the last minute move to Italy.
Massive posters of Mandela adorn the walls of Rome's Auditorium Parco della Musica.
Almost every laureate mentioned Madiba and his immense contribution to peace and reconciliation.
Outspoken American laureate Jody Williams didn't mince her words about governments' kowtowing to China.
"The world will become worse and worse and we thank the mayor for having the courage to stand up to her government and trying to get us all to Cape Town."
Williams added she is disappointed that Pope Francis won't be meeting the Dalai Lama this time.
Vatican City officials ruled out Pope Francis meeting the Dalai Lama this time around, saying it will be better to wait until the time is right.
The Pope apparently holds the Tibetan Spiritual leader in high regard.
The Dalai Lama is no stranger to the country, with this being the ninth time the Italian capital is hosting the summit.
The City of Cape Town has said it lost an economic opportunity of about R60 million with the relocation of the summit.
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.