Wits condemns govt for "silencing" Dalai Lama
The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg expressed its "profound dismay at the South African government for silencing the voice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama".
"We, as South Africans, have a moral obligation to provide a platform for all voices to be heard, including the voice of the Dalai Lama. The University condemns the state for once again not granting a visa for this stalwart of peace to enter our country," says Prof. Loyiso Nongxa, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University.
"The state's deliberate indecision ridicules the values pertaining to freedom of speech, expression and movement enshrined in our Constitution, and the freedoms for which so many South African have lived, and indeed died."
"We view the exclusion of the Dalai Lama from our shores with grave misgivings. This betrayal of a key constitutional value provides a clear window into the fragility of the democracy we are trying to sustain. We add our voice to that of other leaders, calling on the South African government to apologise to the nation for this oversight. It is a betrayal of everything that we, as South Africans, fought against during the apartheid regime and a gross violation of the values we espouse as a nation," adds Nongxa.
The Dalai Lama was scheduled to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday party and was scheduled to deliver a public lecture at Wits on Wednesday, 12 October 2011, addressing students, staff members, guests and the media on Non-Violence in the New Century: The Way Forward.
This would have been his second visit to Wits in the last ten years and was to be hosted by Wits University, the Gandhi Centenary Committee, The Missing Millennium Development Goal campaign and Afrika Tikkun.
The lecture was aimed at celebrating youth, interfaith dialogue, non-violence and non-violent methods of protest and was to be held in conjunction with the Missing Millennium Development Goal campaign to end violence in the name of religion, a One Young World project on interfaith dialogue and development.
Kirti Menon, Chairperson of the Gandhi Committee says: "The Gandhi Centenary Committee is saddened by the decision and cannot believe that someone of the stature of the Dalai Lama who symbolises peace could be denied entry into this country. It does mean that as a country we may have lost our moral compass and we need to have an explicit understanding of who can visit this country and who will be denied entry."
Bonolo Cebe, a Wits student & One Young World Ambassador for South Africa speaks on behalf of the youth: "When a state makes a decision such as refusing to grant the Dalai Lama entry into South Africa it needs to recognise the fact that as young people we too have much to learn from great leaders of his calibre.
The message of non-violence and peace is very much relevant in our time as we students continue the fight for justice and equal opportunities for all. As One Young World Ambassadors we will continue to work towards conscientising other young people to understand the value of freedom: freedom from outside pressures and freedom from any form of discrimination."
This sentiment was echoed by Kwadwo Ofori Owusu, One Young World South African Ambassador and Missing Millennium Development Goal campaign member: "The decision of the South African government to deny His Holiness the Dalai Lama a visa is lamentable. It is unfortunate that a man so peaceful can, in the eyes of the government, be seen to pose such a threat. Now more than ever it is important for us to hear his message of non-violence, and as One Young World ambassadors campaigning for an end to violence in the name of religion, the absence of His Holiness serves only to embolden us on in our commitment to the pursuit of a world of peace, tolerance and the attainment of human rights for all."