April 3, 2009

What South Africa needs is Oceans of Wisdom, not a closed-door policy

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article — newritings @ 10:16 pm
hello South Africa...

hello South Africa...– Let the Dalai Lama visit our country

The decision to block the Dalai Lama (which means oceans of wisdom) from visiting a country he had visited before when human rights stalward Nelson Mandela was president shows that South African government are in the power game of real-politik and not principally committed to human rights.

The 74-year-old spiritual leader, whose real name is Lhamo Dhondup, was old enough to see China invade his country in 1949, was invited to address a peace conference in March 2009 which was to have focused on tackling racism and xenophobia ahead of the 2010 FIFA world cup. (The conference has been called off after the visa debacle!)

This decision, believed to be as a result of pressure from the Chinese government has been widely condemned by various opposition politicians (before the elections) but importantly by a few principled leaders within the ANC and even a constitutional court judge.

According to the Times, “China is South Africa’s fifth- largest export partner and second-largest import partner.

South Africa’s exports to China totalled R28-billion in 2007 and R7.9-billion in the first three months of 2008.

Imports from China totalled R60.2-billion in 2007 and R16.9- billion for the first three months of 2008, according to a spokesman for the department of trade and industry, Sidwell Moloantoa Medupe.”

The paper further reported that just “days before the Dalai Lama was barred from entering the country, government ministers, ANC heavyweights and business leaders rubbed shoulders with VIPs from China at a bash in Johannesburg to unveil a 5-billion Chinese investment package for the continent.”

For readers outside South Africa would be pleased to know that the Minister of Health in the African National Congress led government Barbara Hogan, did not just condemn the denial of a visa but asked the government to apologise for refusing the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the South African Peace Conference:

“Just the very fact that this government has refused entry to the Dalai Lama is an example of a government that is dismissive of human rights,”

“I believe [the government] needs to apologise to the citizens of this country, because it is in your name that this great man who has struggled for the rights of his country … has been denied access.”

The other was Kate O´Regan the constitutional court judge who too came in for much criticism.
The reasons forwarded to justify the barring of the visit are in most cases silly and not befitting a proud people that have struggle to eradicate with international solidarity official racism, but let me quote a few so you can judge for yourself:

Minister of Home Affairs Mapisa-Nqakula said the Dalai Lama had never applied for a visa through home affairs. (it’s a low lie)

Thabo Masebe, President Kgalema Motlanthe’s spokesperson, South Africa:
“The attention of the world on us in relation to us hosting the World Cup next year and we would like that to remain … the presence of the Dalai Lama would bring other issues into [sic] attention.”

ANC president Jacob Zuma: “I don’t think it amounts [to the] undermining of the human rights. I think this country’s more sensitive to human rights than many,” he said.

“What should have happened … so that it should not have had to reach this point, there should have been consultation as people were beginning to say this is what we want to do …”

Foreign Minister Dlamini-Zuma said of Bishop Tutus comments on China dictating policy and his intention to boycott the conference if the Dalai Lama was not present she said: “Tutu does not run government. Remember he said he was not going to vote. If it were according to him there would be no elections next month.”

Dlamini-Zuma stressed that the government has an exclusive right to conduct foreign policy and it was guided by “the national interest”.
Dlamini-Zuma said although the South African government does not hide its plans to nurture relations with China, it had never been bullied by it.

“China cannot bully us. But of course, they also have their own interests. As a country, they will further their own interests. But we are not hiding the fact that we want to have good relations with China – like everybody else in the world,” she said.

The storm will eventually blow over, it is worth noting that the Dalai Lama had visited South Africa before and most recently in 2004, where he spoke on the ‘The Role of Cultural Heritage and Arts in the Development of Free Societies’ in Soweto, the giant black suburb famous for fighting racism. Its voice must be heard on issues like these, as we are slowly losing our principles and culture of human rights and solidarity. Our leaders must realize we wanted the World Cup and other events not only for business deals, but to foster good relations with people all over the world, and to give solidarity to those who need us. I think the Dalai Lama agrees with these sentiments when he says “ World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is the manifestation of human compassion.

1 Comment »

  1. It is clear that South Africans do not accept the governments decision to ban the Dalai Lama from our country. We are living in a non democratic country for the 1st time since South African liberation when Madiba was president. The present current SA government has simply exchanged one ruthless dominating ruler for another in the form of the communist government of China. It appears they are not convinced that South Africa can be truly free.

    Those who do feel South Africa can be free are speaking up and fighting for liberation again.

    Comment by Anna Varney-Wong — April 4, 2009 @ 6:24 am | Reply

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