Nobel laureates′ conference cancelled in South Africa over Dalai Lama visa

October 15, 2014

GENEVA

The 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, due to be held in Cape Town later this month, will be moved to another city, the mayor has said after Desmond Tutu blasted the South African government over the event.

“The primary reason for the relocation is the fact that the South African government has refused to allow his holiness the Dalai Lama a visa to attend,” Mayor Patricia de Lille told reporters Oct. 2.

The majority of laureates and laureate institutions had decided not to attend in protest against the South African government's apparent decision to deny the Dalai Lama a visa for the event due to start October 13.

“In light of this appalling treatment of the Dalai Lama by the South African government, the (summit’s) permanent secretariat had no choice but to contact the Nobel laureates and institutions with a view to identifying possible dates and alternative locations so that they can participate in the Nobel summit as they intended,” De Lille said.

The day before Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu criticised the South African government over the visa issue for the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the South African Press Association reported.

“I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government,” Tutu said in a statement.

It was the third time in five years the Dalai Lama could not secure a visa to enter South Africa.

Tutu said he could not “believe that the South African government could shoot itself in the same foot thrice over.”

“When His Holiness was prevented by our government from attending my 80th birthday I condemned that kowtowing to the Chinese roundly and reminded the ANC government that it did not represent me. 

“Downfall of Apartheid”

“I warned them then that just as we had prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government so we would pray for the demise of a government that could be so spineless.”

He said the Nobel Summit, the first to be held in Africa, was meant to celebrate former president Nelson Mandela.

“His own comrades have spat in his face, refusing to see him honoured by the holders of the blue ribbon of awards and honors,” Tutu said.

Last month, 14 Nobel laureates wrote to President Jacob Zuma asking that a South African travel visa be granted to the Dalai Lama.

The presidency confirmed Zuma received the letter and that he would respond directly to the laureates.

At the time, South Africa's International Relations Department said the Dalai Lama's visa application was a closed matter, and that he had cancelled his trip.

The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, five years after Tutu was awarded his.

According to De Lille, Cape Town would continue to co-host the event, even though it was likely to be held in another country. De Lille accused government of "embarrassing the country" and "undermining South Africa's international standing."

Nobel laureate Jody Williams, founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, accused President Jacob Zuma’s government of “selling its sovereignty” to China in a speech Oct. 2.

“We could not go, and the message we were sending ... was a message of protest to China. It was a message of protest to governments who sell their soul and their sovereignty to China, as South Africa did,” she said to loud applause from the audience of hundreds of Tibetan refugees.

Nobel laureate and former South African president FW De Klerk also expressed “sadness” the same day.

“It is with the greatest sadness that I have received the news that the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town has been suspended.

“I have attended many former Summits and always looked forward to the day when South Africa would be able to host this prestigious event,” the FW De Klerk Foundation said in a statement.

“This is because I believe that we South Africans can make a very special contribution to the international debate on the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

“What we achieved in South Africa between 1990 and 1996 is perhaps one of the best examples of the vision that Alfred Nobel had in mind when he instituted the prize more than a century ago.”