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Dalai Lama applies for S.African visa for Tutu birthday

The Dalai Lama, previously barred from South Africa, has applied for a visa to mark activist Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday, but an official said Tuesday.

The anti-apartheid hero has urged the government to grant a visa to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who was barred entry in 2009 to ensure ties with key trade partner China were not jeopardised.

“We have confirmed receipt of the visa application by the Dalai Lama through our mission in New Delhi, India,” home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told AFP, saying the request was received Monday.

“However, because this is not a mere administrative issue but a matter that has political and diplomatic implications, we are deferring to our department of International Relations and Cooperation for advice.”

The Dalai Lama is due to give a lecture as part of events to celebrate Tutu’s birthday on October 7.

“The following day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town. This event will not be open to the public,” said Tutu’s youngest daughter Mpho Tutu on Tuesday.

In 2009, Tutu criticised South Africa’s barring of entry to his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg, with the government saying that it did not want to jeopardise relations with China.

Foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane later said that the Dalai Lama was free to visit the country and that the decision had been poorly communicated.

The Dalai Lama, who in July said he hoped to go to South Africa for Tutu’s birthday, has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

He says he wants better treatment for Tibetans and accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a “splittist” and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders.