Ramphele backs Tutu on Dalai Lama

04 October 2011 - 08:48 By Sapa

It would be "really not fair" if the Dalai Lama was denied a visa to South Africa to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's birthday party, businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele said.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, who is 76-years-old, was hoping to travel to Cape Town to attend his fellow Nobel Peace laureate's 80th birthday celebrations this coming weekend, but the SA government was yet to say if he would be granted a visa.

"Isn't it ironic, that when he's celebrating his 80th birthday, the most fundamental right -- the right to association -- is being taken away from him?

"He can't have a party with his friends and they are just old men," Ramphele said on Monday evening at a candlelight vigil outside Parliament to put pressure on the government to grant the visa.

Ramphele was quoted on SABC radio news as saying that Tutu and the Dalai Lama were "not really a threat to anybody".

"So why would anybody really want to disturb a lovely party for a lovely set of old men? It's really not fair," said Ramphele.

In 2009, the Dalai Lama was refused entry by President Jacob Zuma's administration, sparking criticism from former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

He accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a separatist and routinely warns government leaders against meeting with him.

The Dalai Lama visited South Africa on three occasions between 1996 and 2004, and met former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

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