Cape Town: Despite earlier denials, the South African government has now admitted that it did take into
account its relations with China while denying visa to Dalai
Lama two months ago.
The China factor in the denial of visa was mentioned in an
affidavit filed by the government in the Cape High Court
Earlier, government officials had vehemently denied any
pressure from its relations with China amid an international
outcry over the controversial visa refusal which precluded the
Dalai Lama from attending the 80th birthday celebration of his
fellow Nobel Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
But the Department of Home Affairs director-general
Mkuseli Apleni in an affidavit said his department had taken
into account South Africa`s multi-billion Rand trading
partnership with China when deciding on the visa.
The court was hearing an application by the leaders of two
opposition parties to process "fairly and lawfully" any future
visa application by the Tibetan spiritual leader within 30
days of such an application.
Apleni said Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu
Buthelezi and Congress of the People President Mosiuoa Lekota
had no legal standing to bring such an application, suggesting
that those who had originally invited the Dalai Lama were not
party to the application.
Apleni said that when visa applications from persons with
the stature of the Dali Lama were reviewed, issues such as the
national interest of the country were taken into
The director-general also recalled the "backlash" that
occurred when Australia and France allowed the Dalai Lama into
their countries and how this had "provided some learning to
the (South African) government and the sensitivities that were
attendant" to allowing the Dalai into the country.
The relations with China, South Africa`s biggest trading
partner, as well as the role of China in getting South Africa
admitted to the BRICS group had also played a role in the
decision, Apleni conceded.
"(Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) further
took into account the fact that the deputy president (Kgalema
Motlanthe) had just conducted a successful (week-long) visit
to China", Apleni said, although the impact of this on the
visa application was also denied at the time.
However senior counsel for Buthelezi Anton Katz told the
court that the denial of a visa to the Dalai Lama by the South
African government was "unlawful and unconstitutional".
Buthelezi has invited the Dalai Lama to participate in a
peace prayer event he will host in South Africa in March next
The case will continue on next week.