In South Africa, Refusal to Allow Dalai Lama Becomes National Scandal


| October 7, 2011 | 0 Comments

Why did President Jacob Zuma’s government deny entry to the Tibetan leader?

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In this 2006 photo, the Dalai Lama presents an award to South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who slammed his government’s decision to bar the Dalai Lama from visiting for Tutu’s 80th birthday / Reuters

The Zuma government’s failure to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama
followed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s public comparison of the African
National Congress (ANC) to its apartheid predecessor and President Zuma
to Egypt’s deposed Hosni Mubarak has ignited a media firestorm in South
Africa. It has brought to the surface anxieties about where the ANC is
going. Its critics see it as divided, increasingly incompetent, and more
concerned with internal competition over spoil than with improvement of
the lot of the impoverished masses.


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Thus far, the Zuma government’s response to domestic criticism over
the visa issue has only made it worse. Deputy President Motlanthe says
that China exerted no pressure, and that the visa would have been
issued: “After all, he has been here before.” That statement is
disingenuous as the South African government declined to issue a visa to
the Dalai Lama in 2009. Official statements
that the Dalai Lama applied too late or that his visa application was
“incomplete” convince nobody. Nor has the government made the
straightforward if unattractive argument that keeping out the Dalai Lama
to keep the Chinese happy is in the national interest. Given Chinese
silence, Motlanthe’s statement that he was under no pressure from
Beijing is credible. But, I hope it is not true. Otherwise, the Zuma
government is apparently guilty of self-censorship, which is worse than
giving in to overt pressure from Beijing. As for President Zuma’s
refusal to take responsibility for what was clearly a political
decision, it makes him look weak.

But, unlike many other states in Africa and elsewhere, South Africa
has political institutions that enable it to self-correct. Its free
press makes the sordid details available to everybody. There is a formal
opposition in parliament; and the Democratic Alliance has already said
it will question ministers about the visa episode on the floor of the
House. Further, the ANC is only one part of the governing coalition,
albeit the largest by far. Its partners, the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party have
influence, and a COSATU spokesman has already denounced
the Zuma government’s refusal to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama. Even
the party is a big tent, and it can remove discredited political
leaders, as it did in 2008 when it fired Thabo Mbeki, forcing him to
give up the presidency.

This article originally appeared at CFR.org, an Atlantic partner site.

Culled from :Here

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