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Zuma to visit Lesotho

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Nat Molomo

 

MASERU — South African President Jacob Zuma will be in Lesotho for a two-day official visit in August to discuss bilateral and investment relations between the two countries.

This will be the first time Zuma, 68, will be visiting Lesotho since he was elected independent South Africa’s third president in April last year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa told parliament on Thursday that Zuma was expected to arrive in Lesotho on August 12.

Among the issues to be discussed during Zuma’s visit are bilateral agreements including the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

“The expectation is that there will be a number of agreements to be signed during the visit of President Zuma here,” Tsekoa said.

“Another crucial agreement to be signed is the one intended to protect the investments made by Basotho businessmen in South Africa and the South African traders who invest in Lesotho.”

Zuma’s visit comes at a time debate is raging over the integration of Lesotho into South Africa.

The Lesotho People’s Charter Movement, a civic group, has been aggressively canvassing for Lesotho to give up its sovereignty and become a province of South Africa.

About 500 members of the group marched in Maseru on Wednesday and presented a petition to parliament and the South African High Commission.

The movement’s spokesperson, Vuyani Tyhali, told the Sunday Express that 30 000 people had signed up for the campaign to have Lesotho wholly incorporated into South Africa.

“Time has now come for free movement between Lesotho and South Africa and these two governments have to see to it that it happens,” he said.

“I do not see anything wrong when a Lesotho citizen is also a South African citizen.

“Now our slogan is one country, one passport.”

Tyhali said Lesotho was already economically integrated into South Africa and “therefore there is need for us to be politically incorporated into South Africa as well”.

Lesotho is, geographically, totally surrounded by South Africa.

South Africa is Lesotho’s largest trading partner.

Just over 60 percent of the Lesotho government’s budget revenue comes from the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) in which South Africa is the major player.

Lesotho also imports 90 percent of its basic needs that include food and fuel from South Africa.

The kingdom even imports eggs and vegetables from its giant neighbour.

There are over 50 000 Basotho working in South African mines with hundreds of thousands of others employed or looking for jobs elsewhere in that country.

But the chance of the issue of integrating Lesotho into South Africa getting onto the agenda of Zuma’s visit is very remote.

His agenda is most likely to be restricted to Sacu, the water project and other bilateral issues.

Tsekoa said Zuma’s visit was part of efforts to improve relations and co-operation between the two countries.

In 2001, Lesotho and South Africa signed the Joint Bilateral Commission of Co-operation which Tsekoa said “signalled commitment between the two countries to improve their relations”.

Tsekoa said the success and the economic growth of any country, whether rich or poor, depended on co-operation and interdependence with other countries.

“In pursuit of this objective His Majesty King Letsie III starting from last year and this year undertook a number of official trips to other countries with a view to establishing and improving relations between Lesotho and other countries,” he said.

The king has visited Mozambique, Singapore, Kuwait and Qatar.

Tsekoa said while Lesotho was working on strengthening its relations with other countries in the world, the kingdom “cannot ignore its existing relations with neighbouring countries including South Africa, our immediate and only neighbour”.

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