Nobel gesture

Desmond Tutu and de Klerk stand up against South Africa’s visa denial to Dalai Lama

Written by The Indian Express | Published:March 26, 2009 11:46 pm

It was in Zurich where FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and the former president of the Republic of South Africa,Frederik Willem de Klerk,sat together and discussed the social aspect of football; both agreeing that it was a “great integrator”. South Africa is set to host the 2010 Football World Cup and part of its programme included a peace conference for Nobel laureates,including de Klerk,Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. In an unfortunate turn of events,the South African government denied a visa to the Dalai Lama,sparking controversy.

In defiance over the decision,de Klerk and Tutu pulled out of the conference. One of the primary conference organisers,Nelson Mandela’s grandson,Mandla Mandela,said that the “rejection by the government… is really tainting our own effort of democracy.” South Africa is counted as one of the more progressive states in the continent,one where democracy can breed,and serve as an example for other countries to emulate. Tutu’s contribution to the country served as a channel for uniting people through faith and harnessed a non-violent route towards the end of the apartheid. His vision of a “Rainbow Nation” was realised through the reformist de Klerk,without whom Mandela would not have been set free to lead.

Ultimately,despite romantic notions such as Tibet overshadowing South Africa — which officials are citing — the political reality lies in the economic consequences an angry China can have. China is South Africa’s primary trading partner,which invests $6 billion annually. It has successfully managed to bully countries into not meeting with the Tibetan leader; note what happened when the Dalai Lama sought an audience with the British PM Gordon Brown. The British had to re-work their state policy to suit Chinese requirements: the Dalai Lama was on a “religious” rather than “political” visit. It is shocking that,in South Africa,even Tutu’s personal invitation to the Dalai Lama was not honoured.

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