South Africa’s ruling ANC has rejected Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s assertion that the party was “worse than the apartheid government”.

The Nobel Peace laureate’s remarks came after the Dalai Lama cancelled a trip to South Africa as the government had failed to grant him a visa on time.

Tibet’s spiritual leader had been due to take part in celebrations on Friday to mark the archbishop’s 80th birthday.

“We are appealing to the archbishop to calm down,” the ANC statement said.

The archbishop later told the BBC he was still “very, very angry” about the government’s failure to grant the visa, but said he would in future count to 10 before he spoke.

Pretoria has maintained that it did not come under pressure from China to stop the visit.

Angry warning

During a nationally televised news conference on Tuesday, Archbishop Tutu said its actions were those expected of the apartheid government.

He accused the African National Congress of abusing its power, saying this would one day lead to a revolt.

“I am warning you, one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC,” he said.

The party pleaded in its statement: “We appeal to the archbishop not to pray for the demise of the ANC-led government, but instead to work together with the ANC and pray for the ANC-led government to deliver a better life for all the people of South Africa.”

It said the archbishop’s comparisons of the ANC to the apartheid regime, Egypt’s deposed leader Hosni Mubarak and former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were “very unfortunate and totally misplaced”.

“The archbishop knows it well deep down his heart, mind and soul that the ANC and its government cannot be equated to the repressive and divisive apartheid regime, which had never cared for the majority of the people of South Africa, Africans in particular.”

It is the second time in two years that the Dalai Lama’s visit to South Africa has been blocked.

South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe visited China for four days of talks last week, signing a number of bilateral trade and investment deals. He made no public mention of the visa issue while in China.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama to be a dangerous separatist seeking to lead Tibet in breaking away from China.

But he has repeatedly stated that his goal is for greater Tibetan autonomy rather than independence.

Protests have been held outside South Africa’s parliament by his supporters, who say the country’s sovereignty is being compromised.