Business, Finance & Economics

Desmond Tutu criticizes South African government over Dalai Lama ban


Archbishop Desmond Tutu has criticized the South African government, calling it worse than the apartheid regime. He is shown here delivering a speech during a public discussion about civic responsibility on August 24, 2011, at the University of Cape Town.


Rodger Bosch

Archbishop Desmond Tutu criticized the South African government as "worse than the apartheid regime" for not issuing a visa to the Dalai Lama.

Anti-apartheid icon Tutu warned of a future uprising against the African National Congress during a Cape Town press conference.

The stunning remarks came after the Dalai Lama cancelled his trip to South Africa for Tutu’s 80th birthday after receiving no response on his visa request, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Our government is worse than the apartheid government because at least you would expect it with the apartheid government,” Tutu said in a Cape Town press conference, according to The Guardian. “I am warning you, as I warned the [pro-apartheid] nationalists, one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government.”

Tutu, unable to hide his incredulity at what he saw as South African President Jacob Zuma’s mishandling of the situation, continued: “Our government —representing me! — says it will not support Tibetans being viciously oppressed by China. You, president Zuma and your government, do not represent me.”

Tutu’s anger stemmed from the Dalai Lama’s decision to withdraw his second application for a visa and not travel to South Africa, Voice of America said. The Tibetan spiritual leader first applied five months ago to mark Tutu’s birthday in Cape Town with a lecture this Friday. The Dalai Lama never received an outright denial for a visa, but instead received no response at all.

More: South Africa stalls on Dalai Lama visa

The visa controversy has sparked debate and protests about the degree of power China has in South Africa, and whether China now dictates South Africa’s willingness to grant visas to certain people, The Wall Street Journal said. China has tried to stop the Dalai Lama from visiting other countries before and has voiced negative opinions of those leaders who choose to receive him.

Related: PHOTOS: Dalai Lama faces

South African officials, for their part, deny any political reasons behind accepting or denying visa applications, and the ANC has urged Tutu to “calm down,” reported The Guardian.

Tutu is not alone in his condemnation of the government.  About 250 people showed up for a candlelight vigil in Cape Town to protest the cancellation of the Dalai Lama's visit.  Some civil rights groups also blame the Zuma government for the situation.

“You are disgraceful, I want to warn you. You are behaving in a way that is totally at variance with the things for which we stood," said Tutu, according to Voice of America. "We will pray as we prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government, we will pray for the downfall of the government that misrepresents us.”