The Congress of South African Trade Unions notes the continuing media frenzy around the Dalai Lama’s visit to South Africa.
We also note and respectfully differ with the remarks attributed to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in particular the assertion that South Africans will pray for the ANC’s downfall. The ANC government is a product of the people’s will, who continuously demonstrate their confidence in the government through various means, including by voting for it.
COSATU condemns the government’s clumsiness in handling the Dalai Lama’s visa application. We also condemn the forked tongue communication and lack of openness throughout the entire saga. The unnecessary delays and the failure by government to provide clear and succinct reasons for the delays in processing the visa application have only served the purpose of fuelling suspicions of foul play.
COSATU believes that the Archbishop’s anger and frustration are justified in light of inconsistent and confusing communication from various government departments regarding the Dalai Lama’s visa application as well as the fact that this scenario is not playing itself out for the first time.
As a matter of principle, the federation strongly opposes the utilisation of bureaucratic red tape as a means to frustrate those who don’t share similar perspectives with the government.
We particularly oppose this given how the United States – the bastion of imperialism and aggression – utilises bureaucratic procedures such as denying political activists permits to visit the country, airport detentions and lengthy interrogations followed by deportation to silence political activists.
A number of astute South Africans who have been critical against US foreign policy and its imperialist agenda such as UJ Professor Adam Habib and Na’eem Jeenah have been victim to this brutal tactic.
COSATU also strongly believes that the Dalai Lama’s visa complications have effectively denied South African citizens the opportunity to engage the Tibetan spiritual leader on the quest for Tibetan self determination and their struggles to realise freedom and self rule.
South Africans were denied the opportunity to engage the Dalai Lama on his rather contradictory politics. Examples of such contradictory politics are his defiance of the campaign for the boycott of apartheid Israel and his initial support for the invasion of Iraq.
The Dalai Lama has received accolades from Israel’s Ben Gurion University. This flies straight in the face of efforts against apartheid Israel’s military occupation of Palestine and its effective colonisation of the Palestinian people.
The Dalai Lama’s initial support for the invasion of Iraq, which saw violence being meted out on hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, raises serious questions about the Dalai Lama’s moral compass.
The visa delays and subsequent cancellation of the Dalai Lama’s visit means that we will not have the opportunity to ask these questions directly.
COSATU supports and sympathises with the victims of oppression, occupation and modernised colonialism throughout the world.
We hope that the South African government has learned a lesson from this saga and will avoid such delay tactics in the future.