Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Dalai Denial Backfire

South Africa's denial of the Dalai Lama's visa request to enter the country for a peace conference has backfired, shifting focus away from World Cup -- seen by many within the country as a global reputation builder -- and towards politics. The country's close relations with China have some convinced that South Africa too worried more about maintaining business ties, rather than focusing on the human rights issues that have plagued the country for centuries.

Officials hoped that turning away Tibet's most famous monk would keep the "focus" on its upcoming 2010 World Cup soccer tournament and keep the games from being overshadowed by politics. But instead South Africa has kicked up a firestorm over its commitment to human rights and its increasingly close ties with China.

But as a nation that depends heavily on Chinese markets for buying its rich natural resources, South Africa has given the appearance of having chosen commerce over principle. It's a decision that could cost South Africa its moral voice on the global stage.

"Because of the role of the ANC during the liberal struggle against apartheid, South Africa was seen as a beacon of all things moral, a beacon of human rights," says Aubrey Matshiqi, a senior political analyst (and former member of the ANC, the ruling African National Congress) at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg. "Unfortunately, the reality is that when the South African government was tested on its principles, it has fallen short."

Like China's own 2008 Summer Olympics, South Africa views its coming 2010 World Cup as a kind of coming-out party, and thus, not something to be messed up with politics.

South Africa turns away Dalai Lama, political firestorm follows
The Christian Science Monitor
March 26, 2009