Maharaj claimed that this was “inaccurate and misleading”. “The South African Government was informed by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that His Holiness will not be attending the said summit, thus effectively cancelling his visa application.” He took “strong exception to the utterances of the Mayor of Cape Town which have cast aspersions on the integrity of the South African government and the country.”

His statement followed a speech by the Dalai Lama yesterday, in which he said that “The Nobel Peace Summit scheduled to be held in South Africa to honour the legacy of our fellow laureate, the late Nelson Mandela, has been cancelled as the South African government wouldn’t allow me to attend it.” He added that “This is sort of bullying a simple person.”

On 4 September his representative in South Africa reported that the Department of International Relations and Co-operation had contacted her during the preceding week and had informed her that the Dalai Lama would not be granted a visa.

Two weeks ago, 14 Nobel Peace Laureates wrote to President Zuma and pleaded with him to grant the Dalai Lama a visa. They have to date received no reply.  If, as Mr Maharaj says, we “hold all Laureates in the world in the highest regard” would the appropriate response not have been to reply immediately, and inform them that the Dalai Lama, had, according to the SA government, withdrawn his visa application and that this misunderstanding could be easily cleared up if he resubmitted it?

The only conclusion that we can draw is that either the Dalai Lama or the President’s spokesman have become involved in what Winston Churchill called “a terminological inexactitude.” Who is it – the widely respected international spiritual leader or the spokesman of the President of South Africa?

Perhaps V I Lenin – to whom Mr Maharaj looks for ideological guidance – can provide a clue: he famously commented that “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

Dave Steward: Executive Director, FW de Klerk Foundation