- Lesotho and South Africa are set to hold the inaugural Bi-National Commission this year.
- Basotho is pushing for the extension of the Lesotho Special Permit that expires this year.
- Both leaders are committed to the free movement of people, goods, and services.
South Africa and Lesotho will convene an inaugural Bi-National Commission (BNC) this year as the two countries work on strengthening ties, while the latter is seeking an extension of the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) that expires at the end of the year.
This came out of the meeting between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Lesotho Prime Minister Sam Matekane in Pretoria on Saturday.
This was their first meeting since Matekane came into office in October last year.
In 2021, the two countries signed a framework of cooperation and now they want to upgrade it into a fully-fledged BNC.
The top priority, the leaders said, was the “free movement of people, goods, and services between the two countries, particularly taking into consideration the unique geographic position of the Kingdom of Lesotho”.
“They further discussed easing of requirements for study and work permits for Basotho and extension of the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) when it comes to an end in 2023,” the Lesotho government said.
Lesotho accused South Africa of breaching their “free movement” arrangement when authorities instructed 400 Basotho to leave Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal in November last year.
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That set the stage for the first meeting between Ramaphosa and Matekane due in November last year, but it was cancelled at the last minute as Ramaphosa had an urgent ANC internal matter to attend to.
In December last year, Tsepo Lipholo, the leader of the Lesotho Covenant Movement (LCM), appealed to parliament to discuss a proposed motion on the reclamation of some parts of South Africa.
Historically, the Basotho were found in the Orange Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, and parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
Cross border crime
There have been numerous cases of illegal miners, zama zamas, identified as Basotho. From the meeting between the two leaders, it was agreed that they should join forces in dealing with cross-border crimes and illegal mining.
“Mr Matekane and Mr Ramaphosa further agreed to work together in uprooting the cross-border crime committed by nationals of both countries, the illegal mining menace that has ravaged South Africa and therefore resulting in massive losses of lives of the citizens of both countries,” the Lesotho government said in a statement.
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Responding to questions from journalists, Lesotho prime minister’s press attache Thapelo Mabote said while there were reported cases of assault of Basotho in South Africa, it was not easy to conclude if they were victims of mob justice or xenophobia.
Restoration of democracy
Ramaphosa commended the Basotho for holding free and fair elections, which are the cornerstone of democracy.
As SADC’s delegated facilitator in the Lesotho roadmap, he wished to see the fulfilment of the regional bloc’s recommendations.
“The successes recorded thus far towards the conclusion of the national reforms process are encouraging. I believe that, as per the prime minister’s undertaking, the new government will expedite its efforts and complete all outstanding matters to finalise the reform process and pass the outstanding Constitutional Amendment Bill,” said Ramaphosa.
The Lesotho Constitutional Amendment Bill seeks to amend key provisions regarding political parties, floor-crossing in parliament, the appointment of senior officials, and the role of the prime minister.
The leaders also spoke about Lesotho and South Africa working together in the renewable energy sector.
This is particularly because of Lesotho’s enormous potential in this area, which is made possible by the country’s abundance of water, sunlight, and high mountains, which are strategically located to allow for the efficient use of wind energy.
There are four projects in Lesotho that have advanced past the feasibility study stage and can provide a significant amount of electricity utilising wind.
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