Nobel Peace Laureate and Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Wednesday lashed out at the government for “kowtowing” to China by barring the Dalai Lama from attending a global summit of fellow prizewinners in Cape Town.
Breaking his silence as the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates appeared to be on the point of collapse, Tutu said “I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my Government.”
South Africa denied Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader permission to attend the summit to avoid angering China, which regards the Buddhist monk as a campaigner for Tibetan independence.
The summit, scheduled for 13 to 15 October, was meant to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid and the legacy of the late first president, Nelson Mandela – also a Nobel peace prize winner.
Tutu pointed out that “when the Americans told [Mandela] he couldn’t continue his friendship with presidents [Muammar] Gaddafi and [Fidel] Castro, he told them to go and jump in the lake”.
Mandela’s heirs in the ruling African National Congress party under President Jacob Zuma had now “spat in [Mandela’s] face”, Tutu said in a statement.
He spoke out after fellow laureate, American Jody Williams, said the summit had been cancelled because of the Dalai Lama row.
“The summit has been cancelled because enough Nobel laureates refused to go,” Williams said in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama is based.
There was no immediate confirmation of the cancellation of the summit from the organisers in Rome, while the mayor of Cape Town said only that an announcement would be made on Thursday.
Tutu’s daughter, Mpho, said that her father had remained silent over the visa issue because after a previous unsuccessful run-in with the government over the same issue, he believed others might have more success.
Archbishop Tutu said: “I cannot believe that the South African Government could shoot itself in the same foot thrice over. I believed that our Government had a proper pride. When the Americans told Madiba he couldn’t continue his friendship with Presidents Gaddafi and Castro, he told them to go and jump in the lake; that they could not choose his friends for him.
“When His Holiness was prevented by our Government from attending my 80th birthday I condemned that kowtowing to the Chinese roundly and reminded the ANC government that it did not represent me. I warned them then that just as we had prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government so we would pray for the demise of a government that could be so spineless. The Nobel Summit in Cape Town, the first to be held on our continent, was meant to celebrate Madiba. His own comrades have spat in his face, refusing to see him honoured by the holders of the blue ribbon of awards and honours.