Dalai Lama: Hogan may face hearing

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

Health Minister Barbara Hogan could face disciplinary action for saying that the government should apologise to the Dalai Lama for refusing him a visa to visit South Africa.

Hogan said the government's refusal to grant the Tibetan leader a visa was "an example of a government that is dismissive of human rights. I believe [the government] needs to apologise to the citizens of this country".

In post-cabinet briefing yesterday, government spokesperson Themba Maseko slammed Hogan for what he called her "public attack" on the government's position.

"It is unfortunate that the minister chose to go to a public platform to attack a decision of government when she in fact is a member of that collective," Maseko said.

"It is not for a minister to go to a public platform and openly attack and disagree with a government position."

Maseko said the government did not want sporting events, particularly 2010, to be used as a platform to advance political causes.

In the clearest indication yet that South Africa bowed to pressure from China to deny the Tibetan religious leader a visa, Maseko said: "If you have to compare the interests of a peace conference as opposed to economic interests and bilateral relations with a particular country, a choice was made that our interests were better served if we made that we don't jeopardise our bilateral relations with China."

Hogan's spokesperson, Fidel Hadebe, said: "Minister Hogan does not have anything more to say on the issue."

Meanwhile, the national association of Democratic Lawyers has called on the government to change its mind and give the Dalai Lama a visa.

"The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet and a source of inspiration to people in Africa, who are struggling against war, violence and genocide," says the association's spokesperson Krish Govender.