25 March 2009

South Africa: Split Opens in Ruling Party Over Dalai Lama

Cape Town — South Africa's health minister, Barbara Hogan, has condemned her own government for denying the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a visa to enter the country for a peace conference organised to boost the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

The public broadcaster, the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), on Wednesday aired an extract from a speech Hogan delivered on Tuesday, in which she said the denial reflected the behaviour of a government which was "dismissive of human rights".

South African Nobel Peace Prize winners, former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had invited the Dalai Lama to attend the conference. But after the government denied a visa, and De Klerk, Tutu and the Norwegian Nobel Committee pulled out of the conference, the soccer authorities cancelled it.

Hogan said the government should apologise for its treatment of the spiritual leader. The SABC quoted her as saying: "I believe it needs to apologise to the citizens of this country because it is in your name that this great man struggled for the rights of his country."

Hogan's appointment as health minister in September 2008 was widely welcomed by HIV/Aids activists when she replaced Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, whose performance in combatting the disease was harshly criticised.

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