It was wonderful to see those two old pals and rogues, Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama in a photo on the front page of the Mail & Guardian online, September 27. Excited, I thought they had met up in South Africa. Alas, it was an old picture and the story made it clear that in all likelihood His Holiness would not be allowed to enter South Africa. It is clear from photos like these that there is a lot of affection and respect between the two spiritual leaders. My all-time favourite photo of them shows the Dalai Lama laughing just after he pulled the Arch’s woolly cap over his head. On the Arch’s face is a knowing grin; he knew exactly who was the culprit.

Photos like these are emblems of what the world could be but isn’t. Two leaders of two different religions, who are also two different races, completely respecting each other’s beliefs and choosing to learn from each other, rather than oppose each other.

So it was with great sadness that I read South Africa has still not decided whether to grant the Dalai Lama a tourist visa. Well, we all know why. The country I currently live in would frown heavily upon the South African government if they allowed the Dalai Lama to be a guest of South Africa and therefore a guest of honour at Archbishop Tutu’s 80th birthday party.

It was a glorious day when Nelson Mandela could proudly host His Holiness. What adds bitterness and irony to the de facto banning of the Dalai Lama from South Africa is that Madiba, Tutu and the Tibetan spiritual leader are all deserving recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The fact that China has this kind of say over the “leaders” of South Africa shows up the South African ruling party’s moral bankruptcy. To add salt to the wound, the fact that officials deny they are dragging their heels also shows a lack of honesty. The last time the Dalai Lama was refused entry into South Africa, because it might interfere with the World Football Cup preparations, was an obvious fabrication and an insult to the public’s intelligence.

To state the obvious, refusing The Dalai Lama entry and ducking and diving on the issue, will just continue to blacken the leading party’s credibility locally and overseas. So that is the one good thing that emerges from this sad state of affairs.


Rod MacKenzie

Rod MacKenzie

CRACKING CHINA was previously the title of this blog. That title was used as the name for Rod MacKenzie's second book, Cracking China: a memoir of our first three years in China. From a review in the Johannesburg...

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