Johannesburg : The mayor of Cape Town called off the city’s annual summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners Thursday to protest the South African government’s refusal to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, one of the invitees.
“After extensive discussion and deliberation, it has been decided that the 2014 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, planned for 13-15 Oct 2014 in Cape Town, will be suspended,” Patricia de Lille said at a televised news conference.
“The primary reason for the relocation is the fact that the South African government refuses to issue a visa for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama,” said the mayor, a member of the main opposition Democratic Alliance.
De Lille said organisers are looking for a new venue for the event and that only way Cape Town will retain the summit is if authorities grant an “unconditional” visa to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
The mayor recalled the recent letter from 14 Nobel laureates to South African President Jacob Zuma demanding that he allow the Dalai Lama entry into the country.
The letter has not yet received any response from the Zuma government, which has been accused of barring the Dalai Lama to curry favour with the Chinese government.
De Lille appeared alongside former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner F.W. de Klerk, who criticised the boycott announced by several Nobel laureates against the now-suspended summit in Cape Town.
De Klerk said he was “convinced that (the boycott) was not the most appropriate response to the visa refusal”, pointing out that he and fellow Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu tried to convince the guests to attend.
The man who presided over the end of apartheid said the summit should have gone forward with a protest against the attitude of the South African government regarding the Dalai Lama, as Pretoria has denied him entry three times in five years.
Tutu was scheduled to appear at the press conference with De Lille and De Klerk, but could not attend for medical reasons.
On Sep 4, the representative of the Dalai Lama in South Africa said the government told him the visa application would be denied.
Not surprisingly, the Beijing government welcomed South Africa’s decision not to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama. China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner and the two nations are partners in the group of emerging economies known as BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.