CAPE TOWN, August 29, 2011 (AFP) – The Dalai Lama has not applied for a South African visa, the home affairs ministry said on Monday, a day after Desmond Tutu asked officials to let the exiled spiritual leader attend his birthday party.
South Africa had barred the Dalai Lama from visiting in 2009, saying it did not want to jeopardise ties with China, a key trade partner.
“No such application for a visa by the Dalai Lama has at this stage been received,” said home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa.
He added that ministry officials had twice contacted South Africa’s diplomatic mission in New Delhi to verify whether the Buddhist leader had requested a travel document after a Sunday newspaper quoted “diplomatic sources” saying he had applied in June.
The newspaper said Tutu had urged the government to grant a visa to his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whom he has invited to his 80th birthday celebrations in Cape Town in October.
Tutu strongly criticised South Africa in 2009 for denying entry to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg.
Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Monday the Dalai Lama was welcome to visit South Africa and described the earlier decision as poor communication by the government.
The High Commission in New Delhi has been told to inform Pretoria as soon as an application from the Dalai Lama is received, said Mamoepa.
“Upon receipt of such an application, the matter will be given the necessary attention from Pretoria,” he added.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959, when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.
He says he accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a “splittist” and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders.
The 76-year-old recently stepped down as the head of Tibet’s government in exile, but he is expected to retain significant influence on major policy decisions.