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S.Africa foreign policy “independent” over Dalai Lama: Zuma

Published on 13/10/2011

South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday insisted on his government's independence in its foreign policy in a veiled reference to South Africa's handling of a visa application by the Dalai Lama.

“Let me state categorically that our foreign policy is independent and decisions are informed by the national interest,” Zuma said at a public lecture at the University of Pretoria in the capital, without directly referring to the visa debacle.

“We are not dictated to by other countries, individuals or lobby group interests within our own country.”

“We look at what is of benefit to the South African people, and what will advance our domestic priorities at that given time,” said Zuma.

The Tibetan spiritual leader cancelled his visit to South Africa last week because of delays in his visa application.

He had been invited to the 80th birthday celebrations of his friend and fellow Nobel Peace laureat Desmond Tutu.

Tutu lambasted South Africa for dallying on the visa, and accused the country of playing to the tune of its biggest trade partner China.

Zuma noted in response to a question that “a birthday party has become a national issue”, referring to Tutu’s birthday on Friday.

He noted that governments made decisions on immigration matters based on security and other issues, noting that during the days of the struggle against apartheid, even Nelson Mandela appeared on the United States terrorist list.

South Africa followed a “One China Policy”, which recognises “the territorial sovereignty of China as the sole and legitimate representative of all the people of that country, with which we have strong historical, political, economic and social relations,” said Zuma.