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Crime straining Lesotho, SA relations: Matekane

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE rampant violent crimes involving Basotho residing in South Africa have strained the relations between the two countries, Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane, has said.

Addressing thousands of RFP supporters at a Mohale’s Hoek rally this week, Mr Matekane said he was concerned that scores of Basotho had been arrested for allegedly committing crimes in South Africa in recent months.

He said he was worried that if the crimes continued, bilateral relations between the two countries would be strained.

“We are worried that relations between us and our neighbours are being strained by some Basotho residing in South Africa,” Mr Matekane said.

“We are therefore pleading with those people to refrain from committing crimes.”

In recent months, Basotho have been fingered alongside Mozambicans and Zimbabweans in illegal mining, murders, rape and other violent crimes in Gauteng and other parts of South Africa.

In May this year, 60 Basotho were arrested by South African police for engaging in illegal mining activities at Orkney Mine in the North West province.

They were part of a wider group of 77 foreign nationals who were arrested in what the South African Police Service (SAPS) said was a clamp-down on illegal mining in the neighbouring country.

Another 82 illegal miners of Lesotho descent were arrested in the same country last month. They were accused of murders and other violent crimes.

Mr Matekane’s sentiments are not unique. National University of Lesotho (NUL) Faculty of Education lecturer, Mahao Mahao, recently told the Lesotho Times that actions by Basotho  could jeopardise Lesotho-South Africa relations which have been cordial since the dawn of majority rule in the neighbouring country in 1994.

South Africa could impose stricter immigration controls as part of efforts to stem the rising tide of crimes committed in its territory  by Lesotho nationals. Should this happen other ordinary innocent Basotho will be the ones to suffer from any punitive measures imposed by the neighbouring country, more so as they are dependent on South Africa for virtually everything from health services to food supplies.

Dr Mahao said it was unfortunate that Basotho were suspected of involvement in violent crimes in South Africa.

“This brings reputational damage upon Basotho and Lesotho in general,” he said.

“The bilateral relations between Lesotho and South Africa could be severely affected leading to stricter foreign policy adjustments. While Lesotho continues to fight for more freedom of movement for its citizens between the two countries, its people’s alleged involvement in crime in South Africa could compromise or render such efforts abortive.

“Even worse, ordinary Basotho could be viewed with suspicion and be targets of violence as a form of revenge by South Africans,” Dr Mahao added.

He blamed the Lesotho government and its security agencies for “failing to deal decisively with violence perpetrated by the blanketed men”.

“What Lesotho has now effectively done is to export violence and infest another country with our own failures.”

The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has said it was engaging the South African authorities to allow them to swoop on some of the illegal mining centres across the border to flush out Basotho who are not only responsible for crimes in South Africa but in Lesotho as well.

And addressing the Mohale’s Hoek rally, Mr Matekane called on Basotho residing in South Africa to stay away from crime and to live peacefully with their neighbours.

“We urge our people to immediately stop engaging in criminal activities. That gives our country a bad name,” he said.

He said an RFP government would create jobs so that Basotho in South Africa could come back home and develop their country.

It will also set up factories to produce goods for local consumption and export.

“We will establish production factories across the country so that we don’t rely on the importation of almost everything like we are doing. RFP is all about implementation,” Mr Matekane said.

Once voted into power, his government will also promote good governance and lasting peace.

He said the country was facing challenges in many sectors including public transport, teaching, health and farming and an RFP administration would work hard to address them.

“Improving education will be one of our immediate tasks. We will do this by building new schools and renovating the existing ones.

“We have seen that in some areas different classes are conducted in a single room. The standard of education in the country should be improved so that it meets required standards.”

Mr Matekane said his government would also introduce computer studies in schools.

“This might seem to be a far-fetched dream for learners in Mohale’s Hoek, but we will make this a reality once we assume power.”

His government will also support farmers to adapt to climate change while ensuring that more people have access to electricity and water.

For his part, RFP candidate for Mohale’s Hoek district in the 7 October 2022 elections, businessman, Cloete Sizakele Mdlokovana, said he joined the party because he believed it can bring change.

He said that RFP was the only party with potential to improve Lesotho and its people.

“I know some people doubted me when I was first tipped to represent Mohale’s Hoek. They questioned what I had done for the people but my spirit was not dampened because I know that I have done a lot to help others. I have established businesses in transport and agriculture, and these have created jobs.”

Mr Mdlokovana said he had never thought of venturing into politics until the formation of RFP in March this year.

“I believe in the RFP. It has sound policies to support business,” Mr Mdlokovana said.