It is a sad indictment of the priorities of our ANC led government that they have, once again, allowed money to overrule morality.
The history of our country – one of the richest and most beautiful on the African continent – has not been a happy one. Since the bad old days of colonialism, it’s been characterised by decades of apartheid and oppression, partly overlapping with decades of liberation struggle, leading to a few years of democracy and joyful hope for the future under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.
It breaks my heart when I think of how Mr Mandela’s invaluable legacy of compassion towards all people, regardless of race, creed or gender, his emphasis on fostering peace wherever there is strife, his tolerance of different points of view in the political arena, has been followed by a decade of increasing corruption, incompetence, inefficiency and blatant abuse of power. Oh, and suppression of diverging viewpoints.
The 14th Dalai Lama and Mr Mandela have similar high moral standpoints.
Both have always stood for peace and compassion, and for the need to heal the deep-seated damages caused by man’s brutality towards his fellowman.
Both have fought passionately and with great dedication for the transformation of their own country, society and culture into one where kindness and gentleness can exist between citizens, and where help is given to those who are poor, ill, uneducated, oppressed, or otherwise marginalised.
And both have done so by facing great personal hardships and pressures from governments who stand to lose power if their ideals are realised.
Both are worthy of our deepest respect and admiration.
And they have rightly won worldwide acclaim as winners of the Nobel Peace Prize – The 14th Dalai Lama in 1989 and Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk jointly in 1993.
BUT now, the rulers of our fair country on the tip of Africa have proved once again that money talks. They have made it clear that the continuation of bilateral trade relations with China – a country that has one of the worst records in human rights abuses and whose views on Tibetan autonomy are contentious, to say the least – is more important than adopting a high moral standpoint that honours peace over conflict, negotiation over war, freedom over oppression, ethics over greed.
Mind you, they did a similar thing with Zimbabwe (‘slow diplomacy’, or ‘quiet diplomacy’, or what was it called?), so the shortsightedness and lack of wisdom of our politicians should not really surprise us.
This is NOT a time when I feel ‘proudly South African’. Although I love my country and its extraordinary variety of people and cultures, this is a day when I feel no love towards our government. Denying a travel visa to the Dalai Lama so that he can attend a Peace Conference in our country is not only a bad decision in moral terms, but one that is already reverberating across the globe and causing dismay and outrage worldwide. Can our country really afford that, after the Zim tragedy?
I hope and pray that they will change their minds.
But I won’t be holding my breath.