South Africa: retired archbishop Tutu criticizes government over Dalai Lama visa issue

Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, a periodic critic of South Africa's ruling party, now says the government is a "lickspittle bunch" for its alleged deference to China, a close business partner.

This week, Tutu sharply criticized the South African government after the Dalai Lama did not receive a visa to travel to South Africa. The Tibetan spiritual leader, labeled a separatist by China, had sought a South African visa so he could attend a meeting of Nobel peace laureates in Cape Town on Oct. 13-15.

Tutu said it is shameful that the Dalai Lama cannot attend a meeting meant to honor anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who died last year. Tutu is a friend of the Dalai Lama and, like the Dalai Lama and Mandela, is also a fellow Nobel peace laureate. Tutu also accused the South African government of "kowtowing to the Chinese" and preventing the Dalai Lama from traveling to South Africa in 2011 to attend his 80th birthday party.

"I warned them then that just as we had prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government, so we would pray for the demise of a government that could be so spineless," Tutu said in a statement posted on the website of a foundation that carries his name and that of his wife, Leah.

Tutu said Mandela's own "comrades have spat in his face," and he concluded: "I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government."

Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent campaign against white racist rule, which ended when South Africa held its first all-race elections a decade later.

In the past year, Tutu has lamented the crime and poverty that afflict South Africa two decades after apartheid's demise and has sharpened his criticism of the ruling African National Congress, which had been led by Mandela. Some party members have suggested Tutu should acknowledge that South Africa is a much better place to live than it was 20 years ago.