29 November 2012

South Africa: Home Affairs Respects Court Ruling On Dalai Lama

Photo: Government of British Columbia
Premier Gordon Campbell greets Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

press release

Pretoria — Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor has noted the decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal stating that government had delayed a decision to grant the Dalai Lama a visa last year.

"The Department of Home Affairs has noted judgement handed down today on the Dalai Lama matter. In line with our Constitution, the department respects the ruling of the Supreme Court in this regard. However the Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor and the department will study the reasoning for the judgement before responding comprehensively to this matter," said Jackie McKay deputy director general for immigration at the department on Thursday.

The Appeal court in Bloemfontein ruled that government had "deliberately delayed" granting the spiritual leader a visa.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was due to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday celebrations in October 2011. The South African government at the time said it had not refused to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.

In its judgement, the court declared that former Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had deliberately delayed her decision by four months.

The IFP and Cope appealed against the dismissal of their application in the Western Cape High Court to have the department's refusal to grant the Dalai Lama a visa in time declared unlawful.

"Government opposed the application brought by both parties against the decision of the Western Cape High Court, which had ruled earlier that the points raised by the counsel of the parties were moot following a withdrawal of the application for a visa by the Dalai Lama," the ministry said in a statement earlier this month.

According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the Dalai Lama cancelled his trip to the country while his application was still under consideration.

The South African High Commission in New Delhi in August 2011 said the Dalai Lama's office informed the High Commission that they wanted to submit his visa application without the original passport, DIRCO said.

"For a visa application to be considered, it must be accompanied by the original passport of the applicant. The office of the Dalai Lama was informed of this. The original passport was only submitted on 20 September 2011," DIRCO said.

In light of international criticism that South Africa's actions around the visa application were influenced by its close relations with China, DIRCO was emphatic that the country's foreign policy was independent and decisions were made based on its domestic interests.

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