Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an iconic figure in South Africa, ranking second only to Nelson Mandela in reputation for integrity and trust has always been a man of passion, strongly-held and strongly-expressed opinions. But he rarely shows his passion in the sort of anger he displayed to journalists yesterday, when he accused the Zuma government of being worse than the apartheid government in the way it refused a visa to the Dalai Lama.
Speaking in Cape Town, the Archbishop made no attempt to hide his furious anger at the government’s failure to give the exiled Tibetan leader a visa to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of Archbishop Tutu, something the government denies.
In a tirade against the government, he said you would have expected such a ban from the apartheid regime but not from the ANC; Nelson Mandela had after all invited the Dalai Lama to South Africa in 1996 as his guest.
But under Zuma’s presidency, the Dalai Lama has now failed to get a visa twice running to visit South Africa. Desmond Tutu and the opposition Democratic Alliance have attacked the government for bowing to pressure from the Chinese government in delaying the visa process to prevent the Dalai Lama attending Tutu’s birthday celebrations.
The Zuma government denies acting under pressure from China. It is perhaps not coincidental, though, that the visa was held up so that the Dalai Lama felt he had to abandon the bid just as a South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was visitng China. He was in China for four days in late September signing bilateral trade and investment deals. He made no public mention of the visa issue while in China and both the gov ernment and governing ANC deny any link. Motlanthe has denied Tut’s version of the events and said the Dalai Lama would have eventually been given a visa.
The ANC has been shaken and angered by Tutu’s attack. Its spokesman, Jackson Mthembu said that it was very unfortunate that, before even hearing government’s side, the former Archbishop of Cape Town had decided to attack the government and the ANC. Mthembu added, “In his anger he decided to be economical with the truth.”
The ANC and the government emphasise that they did not refuse a visa – which is what they feel Tutu is accusing them of, but that visa applications take a long time. The Foreign Affairs ministry has been quoted as saying the visa application was only made on 20th September and applications can take up to two months – a statement in itself which seems a little economical with the truth and to delibrately ignore the prominance of the people involved and the issue at stake.
In his scathing attack, Tutu warned that ANC had a large majority but so did Mubarak. he also repeated the warning he gave the apartheid government that “one day we will pray for the defeat of the ANC government”.
A vehement and effective critic of the apartheid system, for which he was awarded the Nobel peace Prize, the former Archbishop has been just as willing to criticise successive ANC governments for failures over AIDS policy, poverty alleviation and other national issues. In an interview with me a year after the ANC took power, Desmond Tutu said that he would be as trenchant a critic of an ANC government as of any other government if it did things that were wrong. He has been true to his word.
See also: ANC pleads with Tutu to ‘calm down’, let the state explain – http://mg.co.za/article/2011-10-05-anc-pleads-with-tutu-to-calm-down-let-the-state-explain
Motlanthe: SA would have granted Dalai Lama a visa – http://mg.co.za/article/2011-10-05-sa-would-have-granted-dalai-lama-a-visa-insists-motlanthe