[QODLink]
Africa

SA denial of visa to Dalai Lama is 'unlawful'

South African courts rule refusal to grant a visa to Tibet spiritual leader in 2011 as stalling tactics.
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 00:56
Tutu called the decision to not grant the Dalai Lama a visa as an act "worse than the apartheid government" [Reuters]

A South African court ruled that government officials "unreasonably delayed" a decision about whether to grant the Dalai Lama a visa for a planned 2011 trip, largely out of fears of angering the Chinese government.

Tibet's spiritual leader was forced to cancel plans to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday celebrations in October 2011.

The Supreme Court of Appeal's decision heavily criticised former Home Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Thursday.

Dlamini-Zuma, who is President Jacob Zuma's ex-wife, now heads the Africa Union.

The government denied it had bowed to pressure from China to block the trip, as the ruling is a legal embarrassment and raises questions about politics influencing decisions of South Africa's immigration services.

"What is justified by the evidence is an inference that the matter was deliberately delayed so as to avoid a decision," reads the ruling by Judge R W Nugent.

"It hardly needs saying that the minister is not entitled to deliberately procrastinate. Procrastination by itself establishes unreasonable delay."

The Dalai Lama was welcomed to South Africa in 1996 and met with the country's first black and democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. But in 2009, the South African government kept the Dalai Lama from attending a Nobel laureates' peace conference, saying it would detract attention from the 2010 soccer World Cup.

The court said that former Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma "was not entitled to deliberately procrastinate." [Reuters]

The spiritual leader later made plans to travel to South Africa in October 2011 to attend the 80th birthday party of a fellow Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

He and others in his entourage applied for visas through the South African High Commission office in New Delhi about two months ahead of the planned visit, according to the court ruling.

Tutu was furious about the visa delay for his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner and accused the government of behaving "worse than the apartheid government".

In response to the ruling, Archbishop Tutu's office said it as a "credit to South Africa's judicial system" and he looked forward to inviting the Dalai Lama to South Africa for his 90th birthday.

In his ruling, Nugent acknowledged that pressure from China, a major trading partner with South Africa, played a part in the delays.

However, the judge said he did not find any evidence that officials had plans to deny the visa outright.

The Dalai Lama wants increased autonomy for Tibet, the homeland from which he has been exiled since 1959. China accuses him of being a separatist.

442

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.