AN association of lecturers in Lesotho’s tertiary institutions has slammed “selfish” government leaders for seeking medical treatment in South Africa while leaving ordinary Basotho to suffer due to the government’s neglect of local medical facilities.
In particular, the Academic Forum for Development of Lesotho (AFDeL) took umbrage at Foreign Affairs and International Relations minister, Lesego Makgothi, saying the government would soon engage its South African counterpart to allow holders of diplomatic passports unrestricted entry into that country to seek medical assistance.
South Africa is currently on a lockdown which has seen it close its borders with Lesotho. Travel between the two countries is highly restricted and people are only allowed into South Africa to seek treatment for serious medical conditions if they have proof of an appointment with a medical practitioner.
Mr Makgothi recently told national television that he would soon engage South Africa to allow holders of diplomatic passports unfettered access into the neighbouring country to seek medical assistance.
His remarks have attracted a backlash from the AFDeL who penned an open letter of protest to the South African High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto.
In its letter, the AFDeL calls upon South Africa not to give Lesotho’s “selfish” leaders preferential treatment by allowing them to “access superior medical care” while ordinary Basotho are denied such services in their own country due to years of successive governments’ neglect of Lesotho’s own health facilities.
“In a recent televised interview, Lesotho’s Foreign Affairs Minister Honourable Lesego Makgothi made a stunning statement to the effect that the Lesotho government would engage with South Africa and table a request for holders of diplomatic passports to cross into South Africa to seek medical assistance.
“This is in the context where border movements between Lesotho and South Africa have become more stringent due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak,” the AFDeL says in its 12 May 2020 to Mr Moloto.
“AFDeL finds the request by Lesotho to be an unacceptable public offence on the grounds that the Lesotho government wants privileged access to superior medical care by officials yet the general public cannot access such.
“It is the same government that has let medical facilities to disintegrate beyond redemption hence should, more than anyone else, taste the bitter medicine that they have prepared for the general public. The laws governing movement of people between the two countries as gazetted in the Covid-19 protocols must apply to everyone irrespective of status. No individual health status is more superior to the other.
“The request by Lesotho is an open insult to Basotho whose healthcare system has been allowed to dilapidate and collapse while politicians, especially cabinet ministers and their families, habitually seek medical care outside Lesotho’s borders, and are therefore cushioned against this infrastructural decay.
“Some Basotho are currently unable to access much needed chronic medication from South Africa due to the border controls and the request to open access only to certain individuals while denying others is an injustice.
“AFDeL has no problem with Basotho continuing to receive medical care in South Africa but such privilege should be open to all who may want and afford to do so, or be denied completely as per the current lockdown regulations.”
AFDeL president Professor Makoala Marake on Friday reiterated the academics’ concerns in an interview with the Sunday Express.
“It is unbecoming and a self-serving attitude on the part of our government to seek preferential treatment in South Africa.
“These are the people who should be leading by example. Everyone is very vulnerable due to this virus and no one should act as if they are better than others.
“We have therefore taken it upon ourselves to raise the matter with the South African authorities because borders are closed and they should be closed for everyone regardless their status,” Prof Marake said.
Contacted for comment Mr Moloto said every Mosotho should have access to medical services in South Africa as long as they had proof of the need for such services. He said it would be unfair to give preferential treatment to prominent people.
“Medical attention is open for every Mosotho who is in need on it in South Africa. It would be discriminatory if it were to be given to certain individuals on the basis of their status.
“Each case (request for permission to enter South Africa) is treated on its merits making sure that it doesn’t breach the lockdown regulations,” said Mr Moloto.