The South African government has in recent times sunk to some new lows, but their refusal to grant a Visa to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference associated with the showpiece 2010 Soccer World Cup, has to rate as a new record for crass arrogance and wanton disregard and contempt for the public it is supposed to serve. I say supposed, as it is becoming increasingly clear, that this government’s main aim seems to be to serve itself. There are a few reasons why the government may have taken this stance, but there is only one which makes the most sense.
First off is the official response: while denying suggestions that the ban was as a result of official Chinese pressure, a government spokesman said he did not want anything to distract from South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup. Absolute bollocks. It’s more likely that the only thing this government does not want to be distracted from is the potential for self-enrichment, which evidently could result from pleasing the Chinese government.
What about a more practical reason? The ruling party recently announced through their leader Jacob Zuma, that The church’s support for the African National Congress (ANC) was an “unequivocal biblical declaration that if God is for us who can be against us,” and their re-election campaign [to gouge at the trough for another 5 years] has been milking these religious assertions for all its worth. Given their new-found religious affiliation with Christianity (spiritual awakening?), could allowing the leader of an opposition religious faith into the country be construed as being in conflict with this relationship? Somehow, I think not, as politicians are not particularly discriminating about which religion they use to serve their purposes.
It’s been reported that an official at the Chinese embassy in Pretoria confirmed that allowing the Dalai Lama into the country would hurt bilateral relations between the two countries; even unnamed government sources were quoted in the same article as saying something similar. Which brings us back to the most likely reason; the South African government succumbed to pressure and is more concerned with maintaining a relationship with a discredited government than in doing the right thing. But what would have made the decision that much easier is that it is very very lucrative…for a select few decision-makers at least.