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For a few yuan more

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For a few yuan more

Lizeka Mda

THE government has offered several reasons for refusing the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a peace conference scheduled for this weekend.

The spokesperson for the department of foreign affairs, Ronnie Mamoepa, told City Press that “the organisers worked with the government on this conference and no invitation was sent to him” even as the organisers confirmed that invitations signed by South Africa’s three Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk – had been sent and accepted.

Presidential spokesperson Thabo Masebe, however, said a visa had been refused because the Dalai Lama’s visit would distract from the Fifa World Cup to be hosted by SA 15 months later.

Government spokesperson Themba Maseko also weighed in with “a choice was made in this particular case that our interests will be better served if we give priority to making sure that we don’t jeopardise our bilateral relations with China in this particular case”.

What sense can a sane person make of this fiasco?

Well, it does not take Sherlock Holmes to work out the connections. It’s all to do with the ruling party’s funding for the upcoming elections.

Last November, Mathews Phosa, the treasurer-general of the ANC, held meetings with officials of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in China.

Liu Qi, a member of the political bureau of the CPC central committee was reported as saying he “appreciated” the ANC’s efforts to strengthen relations between the two parties and the two countries.

Phosa, in return, congratulated China on the success of the Beijing Olympics and expressed the wish that China would help South Africa host a successful 2010 Fifa World Cup.

What do we know so far? That it’s the treasurer of the ANC who made the trip. That the CPC does not distinguish between the party and state. That Phosa invited the CPC’s participation in the World Cup.

Now, fast forward to March 2009. On March 15th, City Press carried a report that China had warned the world not to “put its fingers into” Tibet as the region would be marking the anniversary of last year’s riots in its capital, Lhasa, and 50 years since the Dalai Lama had been hounded out of Tibet into exile.

The next day, the SA chapter of the China-Africa Development fund (CADFund) was launched in Johannesburg. A memorandum of understanding between the CADFund and the trade and industry department was signed.

Seated at the podium alongside China’s ambassador to SA, Zhong Jianhua, and Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Elizabeth Thabethe, was the ANC treasurer!

Phosa told the gathering: “After the election we will see an increase in cooperation between China and SA.” Thabete, for her part, said, “Working together, we can do more.”

What have we learnt now? That the ANC does not distinguish between the party and state. That the deputy minister smuggled into the proceedings the ANC election slogan.

The ANC can continue sucking up to Beijing all it wants, but that will not alter the facts.

Fact: The People’s Republic of China invaded and illegally annexed Tibet in 1949.

Fact: In 1950, the Tibetan National Assembly requested the then 16-year-old Dalai Lama to assume full authority as head of state.

Fact: The people of Tibet rose up against their Chinese oppressor throughout the 1950s. This culminated in massive demonstrations in March 1959.

Fact: The Dalai Lama fled Tibet on March 17 1959 for India where he set up a Tibetan government in exile. Within months, 80 000 Tibetan refugees had joined him in India, Nepal and Bhutan. In 50 years, thousands more have escaped Chinese repression in Tibet.

The same way the world listened when the exiled Oliver Tambo denounced apartheid SA, some of us believe the Dalai Lama when he says life for Tibetans under Chinese rule has been “hell on Earth” and we are outraged that Tambo’s party has sold its soul for a few pieces of yuan.