The world is in a tailspin and with Greece and Italy’s problems we are certainly in for even tougher times. Who or what will come to the world’s rescue this time? Certainly not the Americans or the Germans, they have their own sets of internal and external problems to contend with. Could the ‘knight in shining armour’ be China? South Africa certainly thinks so and our government is doing much to ensure it doesn’t upset its largest trading partner.
But at what cost? It appears South Africa’s lucrative relationship with China is being favoured at the expense of humanitarian and other issues. This stance has enraged one of South Africa’s most renowned figures, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. He recently lashed out at the ANC’s handling of the Dalai Lama’s visa application comparing the current government to the National Party, which handled situations like this in a similar fashion.
The angry Arch slammed the government’s decision and warned the ANC that it would not always be protected by its electoral majority. “Hey Mr Zuma, you and your government don’t represent me. You represent your own interests. I am warning you out of love. I am warning you, like I warned the Nationalists, that one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government. You are disgraceful. Watch out! Watch out!”
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, was meant to attend the Arch’s 80th birthday celebrations. He was also invited by other organisations and universities to visit South Africa. But after much delay, which caused a national and international outcry, the Dalai Lama was forced to cancel his visit. His office said in a statement: “Since the South African government seems to find it inconvenient to issue a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness has decided to call off this visit to South Africa.”
It’s not entirely clear why the government took so long to process the Dalai Lama’s visa application and there are conflicting reports. But some analysts have spoken out about it saying that the ANC wants to protect its relationship with China and that inviting the Dalai Lama shortly after the deputy president’s visit to China would send the wrong message to South Africa’s prime trading partner.
In these tough economic times, South Africa is not the first and won’t be the last to value the relationship it has with its investors over others or humanitarian issues. With capacity, funding and advertising budgets being slashed all over companies are also being forced to think about their relationships and weighing up what those mean to them financially. But again we ask, at what cost?
When the dust settles and we overcome these volatile times, what will the people remember about the way in which their government acted? Will they remember that the ANC was looking after the country’s financial interests or will they turn their back on the party when it asks for their support in lieu of how it’s conducted itself? Only time will tell if the Arch is correct. But for the time being, his words will hurt the ANC and reverberate all around.
A version of this blog was published in RISKSA’s RISKWIRED newsletter and was also published on www.risksa.com.