Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is having an in 80th birthday celebration on Friday, but one of his most important guests was prevented from arriving.
The Dalai Lama was not granted a visa to visit South Africa. The enraged Desmond Tutu called the decision disgraceful and even compared the current African National Congress government unfavorably with the white apartheid regime in South Africa.
“Our government is worse than the apartheid government, because at least you were expecting it from the apartheid government…I am warning you, one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government. You are behaving in a way that is totally against the things for which we stood. I am warning you that we will pray as we prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government.”
The trade union movement Cosatu, usually an ally of the ANC, disagreed with Tutu's threat to pray against the ANC government but condemned the government for its systematic use bureaucratic red tape to frustrate people who disagreed with the government
The African National Congress responded by asking the Archbishop to "calm down" and pray for the success of a government that is seeking to build a better life for all South Africans.
Both outside observers, as well as some South Africans, view the denial of entry to the Dalai Lama as part and parcel of a South African diplomatic policy that places economic expediency over the moral high grounds. This was epitomized by South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela.
South Africa was one of the last holdouts in transferring support to the insurgents in Libya, kept faith with the Qaddafi regime and attempted to broker a compromise agreement that would have kept Qaddafi in power.
It helps keep Robert Mugabe of Zimbawe, one of the most ruthless and megalomanic dictators in power.
This week South Africa abstained on a resolution at the UN that would have mildly rebuked the Syrian regime over the brutal repression of its civilians. All the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) either voted no or abstained on that resolution.
The problem with admitting the Dalai Lama is the fear of alienating the Chinese, who consider Tibet to be an inseparable part of China and view the Dalai Lama as a separatist troublemaker.
Pretoria needs China for trade and investments. South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe visited China for four days of talks last week, signing a number of bilateral trade and investment deals.