This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Lesotho reaffirms relations with SA

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: [email protected] Advertising: [email protected] Telephone: +266 2231 5356

…after Minister Mantashe’s scathing attack on PM Matekane’s government

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE government has reaffirmed Lesotho and South Africa’s cordial relations despite the recent scathing attack on Lesotho by South African Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe.

Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Lejone Mpotjoane, told the media in Maseru this week that there was no feud between the two countries despite Mr Mantashe’s stinging attack on Lesotho and Prime Minister Sam Matekane, whom the SA minister accused of “ordering around SA officials”.

Mr Mpotjoane, who was in the company of Natural Resources Minister, Mohlomi Moleko, said Mr Mantashe may have spoken out of anger. That did not mean the relations between Lesotho and South Africa were now sour.

However, Mr Mantashe on the very same day of the press conference, repeated his attacks on Lesotho accusing the Kingdom of “waging a war on our economy”.

Mr Mantashe further accused Mr Moleko of being dodgy and uncommitted when he wanted them to discuss the issue of the illegal miners in South Africa. He said instead Mr Moleko wanted the South African government to allow the “illegality” of allowing other illegal miners to go down and extract the 28 bodies trapped in the disused shaft at a Harmony Gold mine in Virginia, South Africa.

The miners perished in the disused shaft in Welkom on 18 May 2023 after a methane gas leakage. Initially, there were 31 trapped illegal miners but their counterparts, whom Mr Moleko was allegedly referring to in his conversation with Mr Mantashe, had managed to extract the other three bodies.

Mr Mpotjoane said Mr Mantashe’s utterances could have been said in the heat of the moment. They did not mean that the relations between the two countries were in any way strained.

“The relations between these two countries are very important and you will also remember that not so long ago, (South African) President Cyril Ramaphosa was here in the country with his entourage. Our relations are very deep,” Mr Mpotjoane said.

“It might happen that in a moment of anger or for other reasons, one cabinet member might speak ill of us, but that does not mean that the relations between the two countries have soured. I assure you that our relations are very intact.”

Mr Mpotjoane said they were still committed to helping bereaved Basotho families get the remains of their loved to afford them decent burials.

President Ramaphosa and Mr Mantashe were in Mokhotlong on 23 May 2023 along with other South African ministers for the launch of the Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which supplies water to South Africa.

Mr Moleko said he had not seen anything wrong with the way Mr Mantashe was handling the whole matter. In fact, he said he even called Mr Mantashe to commend him.

“My relationship with Ntate Mantashe is very good and I would not want to go into detail about the the statement that he made on television this past week,” said Mr Moleko.

“There is still a lot that we have to discuss about these illegal mining issues as well as other issues surrounding the mining sector. But up to this far, I am still happy with the relationship we have and how we are working. I do affirm that the relations between the two countries are still very intact.”

However, the venom-spitting Mr Mantashe, who had visited the unused shaft on Monday, reiterated that Lesotho was sabotaging South Africa’s economy. He said the mere fact that all the 31 bodies were Basotho, meant there was a serious problem which required the two countries to resolve.

“We have a serious problem of the evolving numbers of illegal miners, many of who come (into South Africa) heavily armed. This means that both governments must have a cooperation pact in dealing with that crisis because people move from Lesotho armed and appear under-ground with arms, and from time to time we incur casualties.  That is the discussion we should have had with the Lesotho government and not just us retrieving the bodies,”

He said it defied logic how Lesotho authorities could get to know about a crime that had occurred on South African soil yet the South Africans themselves were in the dark.

He then repeated his claim that Lesotho government officials were sponsoring the illegal miners, presumably because they were benefiting from their illegal activities.  He said Lesotho authorities “enjoy some special relations” with the illegal miners also called zama zamas.

Mr Mantashe claimed Mr Moleko had suggested that there were some illegal miners who were willing to go down the shaft and retrieve the bodies of their counterparts.

“I told him that we cannot let criminals go underground as a government just because they think they are brave enough. We cannot facilitate death, so we refused to do that.”

Mr Mantashe further said there is suspicion that there could still be many more people in the shaft.

“We suspect that there could still be more people who are alive down there, given the movement of the methane from the ground. Movements of the methane reflect that there might be some bodies moving under-ground because that is not an easy shaft where people can come and go without restriction. There may be people who are still alive there and if the methane explodes further there could be more deaths.

“We have agreed to put our heads together and find a solution. We cannot leave those bodies underground and live with our consciences clear. That is what we are working on (to retrieve bodies), but it is going to be a bit longer because there is no shaft that connects directly to this one, and the only tunnel that connects with the shaft is sealed,” said Mr Mantashe.