THIS week Free State Province MEC for Sports, Arts and Culture, Dan Kgothule, was in Maseru on what must have been an emotional visit to retrace the “liberation route” ANC cadres walked on their way to freedom. The ANC delegation visited the sites of the 1982 Massacre that saw 42 people, who included 30 political exiles, being mowed down by apartheid regime forces. But it is what Kgothule said at a memorial lecture on Friday that is of interest to us here at the Sunday Express.
Kgothule expressed gratitude for the immense contribution played by Basotho in the liberation of South Africa and called for the easing of the crisis at the borders that has remained unresolved since 2010.
It is arguable that without the help that Lesotho offered, political freedom in South Africa would probably have been delayed by a few more years. However, the general sentiment is that in spite of our immense sacrifices, our role in South Africa’s liberation has not been well appreciated. There is a feeling that subsequent ANC governments since 1994 have not done enough to show their gratitude.
What we got as Basotho, to put it bluntly, was a kick in the teeth.
If there is one situation that vividly captures this sentiment it is the unending border crisis at the main Maseru border post. Since 2010, Basotho on both sides of the border have had to endure nightmares simply to enter South Africa. We accept that South Africa needs to tighten and monitor its borders for its own national security. But we believe there are better ways of handling this border crisis without necessarily appearing to be “punishing” Basotho as seems the case at present. The unique geographical position where Lesotho is completely surrounded by its giant neighbour requires closer co-operation between the two countries.
We are happy that Kgothule seems to appreciate the necessity of easing the burden on Basotho’s shoulders regarding the border issue. We want to appeal to South Africa to reintroduce the six-month border concession that allowed Basotho and South Africans with the temporary permit entry without having to stamp their passports. We are also aware that South Africa has demanded that Lesotho first put its house in order regarding the passport issue. They have a point. We cannot have order at the borders when our people do not have valid travel documents. We must therefore speed up the issuance of passports to our citizens and only after we have put our house in order can we go back to Pretoria and push for a relaxation of border rules.
We have never understood why our country can fail to issue passports to its 1.8 million people. The proposals that we make for easier movement across the borders are not driven by wanting to see anarchy at the border posts. We want to see order at the borders and ensure economic growth and sustenance between the two countries. Unless South Africa agrees to these proposals border towns such as Ladybrand, Ficksburg and many others, risk dying a slow death.