Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, in parliament recently tabled a motion for the government to engage its South African counterpart to swiftly tackle the ill-treatment of Basotho in that country.
Addressing the National Assembly on Wednesday last week, Mofomobe said all South African presidents had raised the issue of Basotho movement into that country, but nothing concrete has materialised as Basotho migrant workers continue to suffer ill-treatment in South Africa.
Due to its perennial challenge of generating jobs for its people, many Lesotho citizens make their way into South Africa in search of jobs.
However, since many of them illegally cross into South Africa, they often fall victim to ill-treatment at the hands of South African law officials and employers.
“In 2001, President Thabo Mbeki and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili signed a joint Bilateral Commission for Corporation (JBCC) which endorsed in it a component of free movement for the people,” Mofomobe said in parliament.
“Nothing good came out of that from the South African side after several efforts from the government of Lesotho.”
He said another agreement was later signed between the two neighbours but it also failed to change the desperate situation of Basotho immigrants.
“In 2007 the two leaders signed another agreement that specifically focused on free movement, but South Africa queried the Lesotho population registry and Lesotho responded by upgrading its passport from RB to RC with microchips but still we never met their standards.”
Mofomobe said Basotho migrants’ woes continued even after the introduction of the Lesotho Exemption Permit which saw 94 000 nationals apply for it with many not being successful.
He added that it was important for cordial relations to be maintained between the two countries.
The leader of the opposition, Mathibeli Mokhothu, supported Mofomobe’s motion saying the colonial boundaries should go as they impoverish the inhabitants.
“Lesotho and South Africa cannot move apart as we are totally landlocked within them. Sadly, our policies of movement and business keep us in dire straits.
“My outcry is that when engaging in free movement across the two countries it should influence Africa as a whole as per the words, ‘No African is a foreigner on any part of Africa,’ and I am grateful to the past governments for trying to eliminate the hardships at the border posts,” Mokhothu reiterated.
In response to the motion, the Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Lejone Mpotjoane, said the government has the mandate to ensure that its citizens live comfortably in their country, and those who wish to leave should do so through the right channels.
“Our government has made attempts to meet the neighbours but failed due to that country’s problems. But that does not mean we are not doing anything as our Ministry has met with the South African consulate to straighten issues of Basotho movement and also bilateral commissions.
“The growing number of Basotho crossing to South Africa and the collapse of the mining sector that side has caused a pandemic that has surpassed the country’s preparation for the influx of immigrants.
He said his ministry has made preparations to curb the atrocities that Basotho endure by making cross-border movement easier during the festive period.
Mpotjoane, however, said Lesotho must be conscious of creating jobs for its citizens by developing appropriate economic development policies and also demonstrating the political will to make good use of Lesotho’s natural resources.