S.Africa would have granted Dalai Lama visa: report

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South Africa's government would have granted the Dalai Lama a visa to visit the country if he hadn't cancelled his trip, the Deputy President was reported to have said Wednesday.

"Of course, he has been here before, I don't see why it should be an issue at all," Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told The Star newspaper.

The country denied it was influenced by China in issuing a visa to the Tibetan spriirtual leader after Archbishop Desmond Tutu called authorities worse than the apartheid government for dithering on the issue.

"South Africa ... is a sovereign country. We make decisions based on our domestic interest," foreign affairs spokesman Clayson Monyela told 702 talk radio in an interview.

"We are not bullied, we are not pressured, we are not influenced by anybody in making decisions."

The Dalai Lama this week cancelled a visit to South Africa for the 80th birthday celebrations of his longtime friend and fellow nobel laureat, saying his visa had not been issued on time.

Tutu reacted by lambasting President Jacob Zuma's government in a nationally televised news conference, threatening to pray for the downfall of the African National Congress.

"Hey Mr Zuma, you and your government don't represent me. You represent your own interests," said Tutu.

"I am warning you, one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government. You are disgraceful. I want to warn you, you are behaving in a way that is totally at variance with the things for which we stood," he said.

Monyela emphasised that the Dalai Lama was not refused a visa.

"We were still subjecting this application to the application processes when he took the decision to cancel."

"The high commission in New Delhi, India, was actually going to communicate with him yesterday evening or this morning Indian time in terms of the feedback from the application processes," he said.

The visa application process took time because of the logistics involved in such a high-profile visit, Monyela added.

Meanwhile the country's National Interfaith Council called on the government "not to sacrifice important values that we as South African are know for, for international trade," referring to biggest trade partner China.

The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where the Dalai Lama would have given a lecture, will stage a protest march on Wednesday over the visa debacle, it said in a statement.

© 2011 AFP

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