Court says Dalai Lama's South Africa visa delay unlawful

Dalai Lama's visa delay to South Africa 'unlawful'
The Dalai Lama ended up giving his birthday lecture via a video link   PHOTO | BBC

South Africa's government acted unlawfully in failing to give the Dalai Lama a visa in time for a planned visit last year, a court has ruled.

Tibet's spiritual leader was forced to cancel plans to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday celebrations in October 2011.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said the former Home Affairs minister had "unreasonably delayed her decision".

The government denied it had bowed to pressure from China to block the trip.

The Supreme Court of Appeal was hearing an appeal application by two opposition parties - the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Congress of the People (Cope) - about the issue.

Archbishop Tutu said the failure to grant the Dalai Lama a visa was a disgrace

Video link

Earlier, the Western Cape High Court had dismissed the case, the South Africa Press Association reported.

Archbishop Tutu was furious about the visa delay for his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner and accused the government of behaving "worse than the apartheid government".

According to the AFP news agency, the Supreme Court of Appeal found no evidence that the government had actually made a decision not to grant a visa, but did detect stalling tactics.

"What is justified by the evidence is an inference that the matter was deliberately delayed so as to avoid a decision," the news agency quoted the judgment as saying.

The court said that former Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma "was not entitled to deliberately procrastinate", South Africa's City Press newspaper reported.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma, who is President Jacob Zuma's former wife, now heads the Africa Union.

The Dalai Lama eventually delivered a lecture at Archbishop Tutu's birthday celebrations via a video link.

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