Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Due to an unreasonable delay on the part of the South African Government in processing the visa application of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader is unable to visit South Africa. This is a terrible disappointment.
We had hoped to welcome the Nobel Laureate to Cape Town on Thursday.
As a long time friend of the Dalai Lama, I had invited him to meet with me for a moment of reflection before we attended the celebration of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday.
I last met with the Dalai Lama in Rome in November 2009, when I attended the 5th World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet. I came under intense pressure not to attend that Convention, after having attended the 4th Convention in Edinburgh in 2005, where I had also spent time with the Dalai Lama.
Our meeting in Rome was personally edifying, for it came just months after the South African Government barred the Dalai Lama from entering our country in March 2009, in violation of our laws and constitutional principles. This happened in the same week he was expected to arrive.
As the longest serving Minister of Home Affairs in a democratic South Africa, I knew there were no grounds in law to bar him from entry; it was a political decision. I therefore applied to the Cape High Court to overturn our Government’s decision. But the Court refused to hear the merits of the matter, alleging that it was not sufficiently urgent because the fundamental rights breached were not sufficiently important and not sufficiently hurt.
Because these fundamental rights dealt with free speech, and freedom of association, religion, belief and opinion, I could not leave the matter there. In my personal capacity, I took the matter to the Constitutional Court, which effectively refused to hear it, resorting to a technicality not previously known and not used since. This was one of the occasions in which all our constitutional checks and balances failed.
I and my Party have supported the Dalai Lama’s quest for cultural and religious autonomy for the Tibetan people. We long to see Tibet transformed into a region of non-violence and peace. My commitment to non-violence was forged in many discussions with Inkosi Albert Luthuli, the first African to win the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1960. I have never wavered from the principle of non-violence, which was one of the founding principles of our liberation struggle.
In October last year, the IFP expressed its support for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) as the legitimate representative body for the Tibetan people, both inside Tibet and in the exiled diaspora. We recognized the Parliament of the CTA, the Kashag, and the Kalon Tripa based in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India. The IFP believes the CTA should be the sole representative of the Tibetan people in negotiations with the People’s Republic of China to finalise the outstanding matters of Tibetan autonomy.
We have become this involved and have taken a firm stand because we understand that the issue of Tibetan autonomy is not only important for Tibet itself, but for the entire world. We appreciate the increasingly important role of China internationally and in the political, social and economic arenas. For this reason, we feel that the cause of mankind demands of it to move speedily towards democratization.
And the process of democratization in China hinges on China granting what Tibet now seeks, which is a limited measure of autonomy, and recognition and protection of those rights declared fundamental and inalienable by the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights.
The 5th World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet, in Rome, produced a declaration, known as the Rome Declaration, which makes it clear that our commitment in the advocacy of the rights and freedoms of Tibet is not meant to be antagonistic towards China, but has the purpose of also promoting China’s democratic growth.
It is therefore no contradiction for me to say that I am a friend of China and a friend of Tibet. In the end, I am a friend of freedom.
It is another blight on our reputation that the South African Government gave in to pressure and delayed a visa decision to the point of obstructing the Dalai Lama’s visit again. It is also a tremendous personal disappointment, for there may not be many more opportunities for the Dalai Lama and I to enjoy each other’s company.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai, last month. She was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, four decades after Inkosi Albert Luthuli. Her passing reminded me that such exceptional human beings are lent to us for a limited time. We must make the most of the benefit they bring us.
We have now lost the opportunity to receive the benefit of the Dalai Lama’s presence, and the South African Government has lost an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to an ethical foreign policy.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP