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Lesotho’s SA consulates under fire

by Sunday Express
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Ntsebeng Motsoeli

LESOTHO’s consulate offices in South Africa are useless and should be abolished. This according to Basotho living in South Africa who have coalesced under a group calling itself Lehae la Basotho.

The group claims the consulates are so useless they are unable to help with transportation permits for bodies of Basotho who die in the neighbouring country.  Lesotho maintains consulates offices in Durban, Klerksdorp, Welkom and Johannesburg, in addition to its main High Commission offices in Pretoria.

But Basotho living in South Africa describe these consulates as a sheer waste of resources and effort. Alternatively, their only other purpose is as a “jobs for the boys” scheme.

Lehae la Basotho want the government to recall all its consuls at these stations on account of “gross incompetence”. The group is also unhappy with the delays in remitting the aid promised by the government to the Basotho diaspora community in SA in March this year.

Lehae la Basotho has detailed all its concerns in a letter to Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, ‘Matšepo Ramakoae.

To underscore its grievances Lehae la Basotho will march to the main Lesotho High Commission offices in Pretoria on 1 September 2020. Permission for the protest is being sought from the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality.

Ms Ramakoae confirmed receiving Lehae la Basotho’s letter. The government was looking into their stated grievances, she said.

“The Lehae La Basotho workers union executive committee appeals to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations (Ms Ramakoae) to close the Lesotho commissions (sic) in South Africa or replace the officials (sic),” part of the letter reads.

“We are not happy with their service to Basotho. They have failed to provide travelling permits to facilitate the transportation of expatriate Basotho who die in South Africa.”

Lehae la Basotho president Majorobela Masakale told the Sunday Express they were disappointed with the services at the consulates. So useless were the consulates that his group saw no reason why they should be kept open. The government should either close them down or staff them with competent individuals, he said.

He said thousands of Basotho in South Africa were starving after losing income because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the consuls had remained aloof.

In March 2020, then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane announced a M4 million budget to cushion South African based Basotho from the effects of Covid-19.

But not a penny had been disbursed to the more than 12 000 Basotho who had registered to receive the aid, Mr Masakale complained.

Mr Masakale said they had now lost patience and would march to the main High Commission offices in Pretoria. They also want the High Commissioner, Nehemia Sekhonyane Bereng, fired.

Mr Masakale said the M4 million aid announced by Mr Thabane was inadequate as most people had gone without income for more than four months.

Ms Ramakoae said her ministry would soon provide a detailed response to the Lehae la Basotho’s demands.

She, however, said some of the union’s demands were beyond the consuls’ mandates.

“The union is being unfair on the consuls. Providing Covid-19 food relief is outside their duty. It is the government’s duty. There was no provision made to the consulates to provide such help. It is the work of the Ministry of Social Development to provide such assistance. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is assisting us to reconcile th

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