Dharamshala — “Tibetans have and will always admire the South African spirit and we are convinced that if South Africa can do it, then Tibetans can do it too," President Dr Lobsang Sangay said during his first trip to South Africa, despite China's protests.
President of the Central Tibetan Administration, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa on February 5 for his first trip to Africa. This is the first ever official visit of a Tibetan political leader to the African continent since His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit in 1996.
Upon his arrival, Dr Lobsang Sangay met with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the founder and president of Inkatha Freedom Party, with other South African parliamentarians over a formal luncheon meeting.
Dr Sangay thanked Prince Buthelezi and his party for the invitation. Highlighting South Africa’s history of freedom struggle, a quest for justice, equality and freedom, Dr Sangay expressed his hope that the country would stand up to its moral values and principles that it seem to deviate from under China’s pressure.
Dr Sangay spoke of the current concerning situation in Tibet and also iterated the growing presence and influence of China in Africa. Acknowledging Prince Buthelezi as a 'true friend of Tibet,' Dr Sangay thanked Prince Buthelezi for his sincere support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibet cause and expressed his hope to visit South Africa again.
Prince Buthelezi welcoming Dr Sangay to South Africa, voiced his great admiration for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his support for the Middle Way Approach and the Five-Fifty vision. He further added that the situation in Tibet is of concern to all and expressed his hope that genuine autonomy will soon be achieved and that freedom will be restored in Tibet.
He thanked Dr Sangay for accepting his invitation to visit South Africa and expressed apologies ever the postponement of the State of the Nation Address, which Dr Sangay was schedule to attend.
President Dr Lobsang Sangay called on several members of South African Parliament on February 8. The Tibetan President met with Honorable John Steenhuisen, Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance party, MP and Sandy Kalyan, MP, where he briefed them on the critical situation in Tibet that has led to the self immolation of 151 Tibetans.
The parliamentarian shared and discussed with Dr Sangay about the current political situation in South Africa following the recent postponement of the State of the Nation Address. They also assured their support for the Tibet cause.
The Tibetan President also attended a peace event at the Ubuntu Wellness Centre in Cape town on February 8. Dr Sangay along with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, President and founder of Inkatha Freedom Party, lit a peace torch symbolizing peace in Africa, Tibet, and the world. The event was organized by Ian MacFarlane from the Friends of Tibet based in South Africa.
Dignitaries present at the event were IFP parliamentary Caucus Chief Whip Narend Singh MP, Deputy Whip Liezl van der Merwe MP, Caucus Chairperson Inkosi Russel Cebekhulu MP, Party’s Deputy President Inkosi Elphas Buthelezi MP, and National Chairperson of the IFP Youth Brigade Mkhuleko Hlengwa MP, and Representative Ngodup Dorjee.
Prince Buthelezi, in his brief speech, said that Tibet should be supported in line with the protection of human rights as enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution.
He said the support given to the people of Tibet is support for the human race and that “this symbolizes the issue of human rights which is not an issue of just one country but an issue of the whole world spanning the entire human species. Therefore the support that we give to Tibet is the support which in fact is a duty to all of us, as members of the human species.”
On February 9, President Lobsang Sangay addressed students and faculty of the University of Stellenbosch’s Law Department.
Despite verbal and written protests by the Chinese embassy in South Africa to cancel the event, the Department went ahead with the event. Faculty members and number of interested students attended the address, which lasted about 30 minutes.
In his address, President Dr Sangay spoke about His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people’s reverence and admiration for Nelson Mandela and the values that South Africa as a country represents to the world.
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people have always expressed appreciation for Nelson Mandela for the non violent revolution that he led in South Africa,” Dr Sangay told the students and faculty.
“Nelson Mandela’s book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ shaped my thinking and my political ideology. My growing up years was heavily influenced by Nelson Mandela’s struggle for freedom and this sowed the seeds for the quest for freedom for my homeland Tibet. I have had the honor of meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu and I feel close to the values for freedom, justice, democracy and non-violence that South Africa continue to fight for,” he added.
“Tibetans have and will always admire the South African spirit and we are convinced that if South Africa can do it, then Tibetans can do it too."
????uring my university days two and half decades ago in Delhi, I marched along with millions of people across the world, to call for an end to apartheid and for South Africa’s freedom,” Dr Sangay recalled.
Dr Sangay expressed confidence that South Africa will continue to support the Tibetan people and the Tibetan movement.
Speaking about the issue of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s South Africa visa delays, Dr Sangay said: “The denial of visa for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, not just once but three times, showed how the values cherished by South Africa are diminishing.”
????or His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it is not much of a loss because it is simply a case of not going to one more country. But for South Africa, it was a compromise of the values of freedom, non violence and justice that you fought for, that you went to prison for,” Dr Sangay pointed out.
“South Africa’s moral authority became questionable and therefore with the unfortunate episode, South Africa lost more than just His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” he said.
Urging the students and faculty to look at Tibet as a moral lesson, he said: “Let’s not repeat the mistake again. Tibet provides a chance for South Africa to prove its moral and legitimate authority” and lauded the Law Department of the University for upholding the values of freedom and democracy that is rightfully enshrined in the constitution of South Africa.
The Tibetan President's trip was met with protests and pressure from China, however, South African authorities did not back down and welcomed President Sangay for his first visit to Africa.