Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro has written to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to apologise to him and his country for the violence in that country allegedly caused by Basotho illegal immigrants.
This was disclosed by Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Sam Rapapa, at a press conference in Maseru yesterday.
Illegal immigrants are often blamed for the rise in violence in South Africa. However, there is no empirical basis for the claim that migrants are responsible for the increase in crime in South Africa.
Crime-related killings and other homicides involving guns, cash-in-transit heists and armed robberies are often associated with illegal immigrants.
On July 28 this year, South African police said eight women were raped when a television crew filming a music video at a mine dump in Krugersdorp was attacked by heavily-armed men, some suspected of being illegal miners.
Krugersdorp is located west of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province.
Reports further indicated that these men also robbed the victims of their watches, cell phones, earrings, and cameras and also assaulted the men who were with the women.
The attack was a shocking incident, even for a country used to high levels of violent crime like South Africa.
Police have so far arrested more than 100 people since the assault – most of them migrants for being in the country illegally. Some of those arrested are Basotho.
In terms of foreign policy, the crimes allegedly committed by Basotho in South Africa will primarily affect Lesotho’s relations with its neighbour, Rapapa said.
Besides that, Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa, its main destination for manufactured.
“The government of Lesotho expresses great disapproval of these acts and is embarrassed by the criminal acts done by Basotho living in South Africa,” Rapapa said.
“The Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa expressing embarrassment at what some of Basotho do while in South Africa.
“We apologise to the citizens of South Africa and other Basotho living in South Africa and Lesotho for these horrific acts committed by some Basotho,” he added.
The high price of gold in recent years has seen the proliferation of illegal mining activities in the abandoned mines, especially in the Free State and Gauteng provinces.
Many Basotho men, desperate to put bread on the table for their families, now migrate to South Africa to work in the abandoned mines.
Known as zamazamas, illegal mining gangs are considered dangerous as they are usually armed and are known to fight violent turf battles with rival groups.
The raping of eight women in Krugersdorp by suspected illegal miners has aggravated an already tense situation as it comes at a time when South Africa is seeing an upsurge in xenophobic attacks sparked by locals blaming foreigners for various crimes in their areas.
Addressing the nation last night, Majoro said his government learned with great regret reports of wanton rape of about eight women in Krugersdorp, “which is alleged to have occurred at the hands of amongst others, Basotho perpetrators”.
He said: “We condemn these acts of terror and empathise with the victims and their families.”
He said efforts were in train to fully understand what had happened, “but we are deeply concerned about nomadic crime that takes place in South Africa or Lesotho, with the perpetrators being able to flee into either of the countries”.
“We are also deeply concerned about the unlimited and unregulated financing of this type of crime. So many of our people have fallen victim,” he added.
Only a concerted law enforcement effort between the two countries, according to Majoro, can quell the bloodletting.
“In this respect, South Africa and Lesotho must now elevate their law enforcement cooperation and find creative solutions by which our people can live in peace in this part of the continent,” he concluded.
Yesterday it was reported that thousands of angry South African protesters hunted down miners without permits, sealing makeshift shafts and burning houses.
Armed with machetes, golf clubs and hammers, mobs of residents on Thursday moved from one area to another on the fringes of the town’s Kagiso township, trying to smoke out miners operating illegally in informal shafts.
Kagiso township is situated in Krugersdorp west of Johannesburg in Gauteng.
Later in the evening, authorities said the situation had stabilised and 29 undocumented people had been arrested on charges of illegal immigration.
Police said a murder and public violence investigation was opened after the body of a man was found near the area in the morning.