The pettiness of the refusal of the government to give a visa to the Dalai Lama to stop two old men having a party puts us back to square one.
As Mamphela Ramphele puts it Ramphele backs Tutu on Dalai Lama – Times LIVE:
“Isn’t it ironic, that when he’s celebrating his 80th birthday, the most fundamental right — the right to association — is being taken away from him?
“He can’t have a party with his friends and they are just old men,” Ramphele said on Monday evening at a candlelight vigil outside Parliament to put pressure on the government to grant the visa.
That’s exactly the kind of petty nastiness one had come to expect from the National Party government. And it’s worse, because our constitution now upholds the rights to freedom of religion, freedom of travel, and freedom of association — all of which are trashed by this act. The old National Party was not as cynically hypocritical as that. They made no bones about it — any foreign religious leader was a persona non grata, and found it very difficult to get a visa. And any Nobel Peace Prize winner, domestic or foreign, was the same, and so the combination would not have much hope.
I suggest that any Southern African religious bodies hosting international conferences to which foreign religious leaders may be invited should seriously think of moving the venue to Botswana or Namibia, or they may find that their speakers are unable to attend. That would include the congress of the Southern African Missiological Society, due to be held in January 2012.
The petty spitefulness of stopping two pensioners having a party, however, is overshadowed by the implications for South African sovereignty. Zuma, who was elected ANC leader by promising to be all things to all men and courting universal popularity, is now finding that popularity gurgling down the drain, and trying to shore it up by disciplinary hearings of his most vociferous critics, but not daring to contradict his (and our) colonial masters.
As a student I sometimes enjoyed listening to Radio Peking (as it was spelt in those days), denouncing US imperialism as “a paper tiger, a bean curd tiger”. But Chinese imperialism seems to be lapping up South Africa like bean curd.
The Dalai Lama visited South Africa when Nelson Mandela was president, and again when Thabo Mbeki was president. Why not now? And above all, why stop him from coming to Desmond Tutu’s brithday party?