Johannesburg: South Africa`s ruling ANC has
rubbished as a "publicity tactic" and "astonishing silliness"
the legal challenge thrown by two opposition parties against
its handling of a failed visa bid by the Dalai Lama.
The party, which was at the receiving end of severe
criticism over the delay in granting of visa to the Tibetan
spiritual leader that led him to shelve his visit to South
Africa, said the notion that the government has violated the
constitution was misguided.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Congress of the
People (COPE) lodged an application in the Western Cape High
Court on Monday in an attempt to force the government to treat
further visa applications by the Dalai Lama fairly.
The Dalai Lama was supposed to make a week-long trip to
the country to join the 80th birthday celebrations of his
fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond
Tutu and speak at several public lectures but the visit was
There was widespread speculation that South Africa did not
want to offend its largest trading partner China and hence the
delay but this was denied by senior government officials.
"(This court action) is nothing short of astonishing
silliness and political shallowness. It is a bizarre publicity
tactic that is reflective of political parties whose role in
our public space is becoming increasingly insignificant and
are therefore desperate to get noticed," the office of African
National Congress chief whip Mathole Motshekga said in a
Commenting on the assertion in court papers by the two
parties that their rights to engage in discussion with the
Dalai Lama and share religious views were violated, the
statement said: "The notion that government has violated the
constitution on the Dalai Lama matter is misguided and cannot
be backed up by facts".
The court documents include affidavits by the Dalai Lama`s
representative for Africa, Sonam Tenzing, which state that
visa applications in 2009 and another filed in September this
year were made difficult by the South African government.
A third application is now to be submitted after the Dalai
Lama agreed to a request from IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi
to attend a prayer meeting in Durban in March next year on the
South African public holiday Human Rights Day.
IFP and COPE have asked the court to issue a declaratory
order for the Dalai Lama to receive a visa this time round.
The government has until Monday to say whether it will oppose
The IFP also brought an application in 2009 in the same
court to have the government`s decision not to grant the Dalai
Lama a visa overturned, but the court threw the case out.
A subsequent appeal to the Constitutional Court is still
pending, but the IFP said the latest application would