Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 5:22 AM

South Africa bans Dalai Lama from peace conference to appease China…?!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Westerns are incredulous by South Africa’s decision to ban the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, from attending a peace conference for Nobel laureates that is scheduled to convene in Johannesburg on Friday.  But nobody familiar with recent developments in South African politics should be.

A few years ago, communists and other left-wing factions in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) began undermining the presidency of Thabo Mbeki to make way for their standard bearer, Jacob Zuma.  And since then I’ve been chronicling (and lamenting) South Africa’s slow but certain descent into just another dysfunctional, destitute and discredited African country.

In fact nothing demonstrated this descent quite like the way unemployed blacks scapegoated and attacked black foreigners recently to vent their economic frustrations. The irony of course is that they were executing these attacks in a discriminatory manner eerily similar to the way Apartheid whites once attacked them.

More to the point, there’s no denying that this descent has coincided with the fractious ouster of Mbeki and his democratic allies from the ANC leadership by Zuma and his communist allies.

Rabble-rousing trade unionists and unreformed communists have turned the ANC from a governing coalition into a band of rebels. Therefore, Zuma enlisting them to intimidate a political cartoonist (Zapiro) should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.

[Zuma issues fatwa against cartoonist…, TIJ, December 28, 2008]

But I discerned early on that, given credible allegations that he’s not only a corrupt politician but also a rapist, Zuma knew full well that he would always be persona non grata in the West.  Therefore, I was not at all surprised when he began emulating fellow African pariahs like President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President al-Bashir of Sudan by forging political and economic ties with China and Russia.

Moreover, this is why South Africa couldn’t care any less about outrage in the West over its ban on the Dalai Lama.  Never mind the hypocrisy of Zuma and crew now governing like the Apartheid leaders they once reviled….

We in the South African government have not invited the Dalai Lama to visit South Africa, because it would not be in the interests of South Africa… The attention of the world is on South Africa because of it being the host country for the 2010 World Cup, and we wouldn’t want anything to distract from that… A visit now by the Dalai Lama would move the focus from South Africa onto issues in Tibet.

(ANC spokesman Thabo Masebe)

No doubt South Africa is convinced that China’s (financial) gratitude for this high-profile declaration of solidarity will more than compensate for Western (political) condemnation.

But nothing indicates how much South Africa has veered from the path towards democracy quite like having former Apartheid leader F.W. de Klerk join former Anti-Apartheid leaders Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela (all Nobel peace prize winners) in boycotting this conference in solidarity with the Dalai Lama and his Western supporters:

If His Holiness’s visa is refused, then I won’t take part in the coming 2010 World Cup-related peace conference. I will condemn [the] government’s behaviour as disgraceful … a total betrayal of our struggle’s history.  We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply distressed and ashamed.

(Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

[South Africa] should admit anyone with a legitimate and peaceful interest and should not take political decisions on who should, and who should not, attend.

(F.W. de Klerk)

It is impossible for us to be part of an event where one of the main participants is not able to enter the country.

(Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel peace prize committee)

Of course, no country is better suited to help South Africa weather this political storm than China.  After all, despite near-universal condemnation over China’s brutal crackdown on the Dalai Lama’s followers in Tibet last year, no country followed through on threats to boycott the Beijing Olympics.

Therefore, South Africa can be forgiven for banking on the triumph of sports over politics again where the World Cup is concerned.  All the same, I hope there’s still a chance that Tutu and Mandela can use their moral and political authority to prevail upon the venal Zuma to reconsider this ban….

UPDATE 

11:15 am:  Reports are that organizers of the peace conference have canceled it indefinitely in protest over the government’s insistence that it will not grant the Dalai Lama a visa to enter South Africa … until after the 2010 World Cup.  China will be very pleased indeed….

Related commentaries:
Mbeki forced to resign as president
Black South Africans attack black foreigners
Zuma issues fatwa against cartoonist
Zuma gets off on rape
ANC splits at its core
Punishing China for Tibet? Hardly

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