The South African Government’s denial of a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this time to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates being held in Cape Town from October 13 to 15, undermines the legacy of Nelson Mandela and sends a wrong message to those who supported peace and reconciliation in the country.

According to media reports, the Dalai Lama’s Representative in South Africa was informed by the International Relations and Cooperation Department that he would not be granted a visa to this annual gathering of the Nobel laureates.

“The Dalai Lama is known internationally for his unflinching stand for peace and non-violence and the South African action goes against the thinking of its own late leader Nelson Mandela,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet. “Nelson Mandela showed his solidarity with the Dalai Lama by inviting him to South Africa and publicly meeting him twice, in 1996 and 2004,” Mecacci added.

When the South African Government denied a visa to the Dalai Lama in 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu had then said that it was “a total betrayal of our struggle’s history.”

If the South African action is a result of Chinese pressure then it ignores the steadfast efforts by the Dalai Lama for dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue, something that respected South African leaders, from Mandela to Ela Gandhi to Archbishop Tutu, have all attested to. It also propagates the Chinese allegation that the Dalai Lama is a negative force, plays into the hands of the hardliners in China and undermines his efforts for peace and reconciliation between the Chinese and Tibetan peoples.

When the South African Government had denied a visa to the Dalai Lama in 2009, Mandla Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, had said, “I am very saddened that someone like the Dalai Lama is being turned down… I don’t think that as a sovereign democracy country we need to succumb to international pressures.”

South Africa should differentiate between the positions of the current leaders in China and those of the Chinese people. Over the years Chinese people from different levels of the society, including party cadres, have appreciated the Dalai Lama as a positive figure and holds him in high esteem.

When the people of South Africa were passing through a very difficult period in their country’s history, supporters of peace and justice all over the world came to their support. The South African Government’s denial of a visa to the Dalai Lama thus sends the message that peace, truth and reconciliation are not priorities to the present government.