September 21 2011 at 10:26am 

By Peter Fabricius


The Dalai Lama speaks to the faithful at a kalachakra for World Peace in Washington.

The Desmond Tutu Peace Centre says the government’s long delay in deciding whether it will grant a visa to the Dalai Lama “has caused profound difficulties” – and costs – in organising his visit.

The centre said it had committed itself to large costs for the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader’s eight-day visit to South Africa, scheduled to begin in two weeks.

Tutu’s representatives began trying to apply for a visa in June.

It is understood they told the South African government they needed a decision by Tuesday.

This was because the Dalai Lama was returning to his home in exile in northern India from South America on Wednesday and hoped to collect his visa from the South African High Commission in New Delhi on the way.

The centre faces large financial losses in cancelled hotel and transport bookings if the visa is not granted.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to arrive in South Africa on October 6, to attend Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations in Cape Town on October 7 and to deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture the day after.

He also plans to visit Durban to receive the Mahatma Gandhi Award for Reconciliation and Peace from the Mahatma Gandhi Trust, and to deliver a lecture at Stellenbosch University.

Nomfundo Walaza, chief executive officer of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, said there was “mounting concern” about the visa.

It is understood the visit’s costs are between R800 000 and R1 million. – Foreign Editor