The South African Government has a long history of supporting the disenfranchised and the oppressed. That is if they are Palestinian. They haven’t been too bothered with the terrible plight of the Zimbabweans who are on our doorstep (actually they are now inside, in the dining-room) or anyone else in Africa really, or those pesky Syrians who keep dying by the tens of thousands. We have also yet to hear outrage with regard to the beheadings and brutality of radical Islam but no doubt we will soon.
And as for China’s occupation of Tibet? Given the fact that the SACP (South African Communist Party) says that it has always been part of China along with Taiwan, so that seems to be that.
So when the Dalai Lama wants to come and visit us down South, it is perhaps no surprise that we land up delaying his Visa approval until he has no choice but to cancel his trip. In fact in 2012 when he applied to visit the country and was not granted permission to do so, the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the Minister of Home Affairs had in fact “unreasonably delayed her decision,” and “acted unlawfully” in doing so. It does need to be said that there is a small amount of satisfaction that we can derive from that refusal given that the trip was to celebrate Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday (and we are clear what we think him “tsu tsu tsu”). It also needs to be noted that that trip coincided with the Deputy President Kgalema Motalanthe’s visit to Beijing, which I am sure, was just that, an unfortunate coincidence.
And now it has happened again. October is a stunning time of year in Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities that will be hosting the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. And the Dalai Lama will not be present because, well, he won’t be. Paper work is a funny thing, unless you are a world leader who can’t seem to beat the bureaucracy. The fact that Pretoria and Beijing are in a “Joint Venture” called South Africa I am sure has nothing to do with it and I am certain that it is perfectly acceptable to ignore any human rights violations that might or might not occur in that region, because they are not happening in Israel.
And as much as we know this, and as much as nothing is a surprise, the hypocrisy, the blatant double standard, the political acrobatics, is simply infuriating. How is it possible to speak in two tongues so openly to the extent that we do in this country? The transparency is quite frankly embarrassing. And I am by no means suggesting that this type of dalliance is unique to us in the land of the Springbok, but we do need to up our game so that we don’t continue to look so stupid. Can’t they pretend at least? We need to elevate ourselves to the levels of other countries who have been playing this game for years.
The truth is that I understand about as much about the plight of the Tibetans as the average South African does about the plight of the Sudanese or the Syrians. And the reason is that it is simply not on anyone’s agenda. It occupies (excuse the expression) an insignificant press presence and certainly very little government focus. Certainly no one protests and no one boycotts the local Chinese restaurant in Bruma (not to be confused with Burma). But we do know that the message that our government is sending over and over and over is that we need more than just human suffering and death to make them take notice. It’s about politics and investment and whole bunch else, but real human rights issues don’t seem to count for much.
And so the Dali Lama cancels another trip and the conference will continue in Cape Town without him and I wonder if the Nobel Peace Prize winners, global leaders that they are, will spare a thought for his exclusion.