The Dalai Lama's planned visit to South Africa has been canceled, the country's foreign ministry said Thursday, after he failed to obtain a visa. The Tibetan spiritual leader had planned to attend the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates (he won the prize in 1989) in mid-October in Cape Town. According to The Wall Street Journal, he had submitted an application to South Africa's embassy in New Dehli, but apparently received no answer.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation later released a statement saying "His Holiness has canceled his planned visit," adding that the case is "closed."
The difficulty over the visa may be a result of the close ties between South Africa and China, as the latter is the largest trading member for the country. South African foreign ministry spokespeople, however, say that political relations do not affect visa decisions.
Either way, the denial and subsequent cancellation could lead to other Nobel Laureates protesting or abandoning the event. The Dalai Lama's friend and fellow Nobel Laureate, retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, had previously said he would attend, but Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said in a statement earlier Thursday "the Nobel Laureates would protest the Dalai Lama's exclusion in the event that he is refused entry into South Africa." If other honorees boycott the summit, it could be a major embarrassment for the government.
This is just the latest in a string of visa troubles the Dalai Lama has faced over the years, and supporters have regularly pressured South African President Jacob Zuma's government to make a decision over the visa application. In 2011, the Dalai Lama tried to attend the 80th birthday celebration of Tutu, but never received a response and ended up withdrawing his visa request. Another visit, in 2009, was also prevented, even though the Dalai Lama had previously visited the country three times under Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.