Eco­nomic fail­ures in Le­sotho cre­ate gen­er­a­tion of mi­grants

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

In a cot­tage in ru­ral Le­sotho, Tisetso Litheko lays out six full pass­ports packed with immigration stamps show­ing his con­stant move­ment across the bor­der to neigh­bor­ing South Africa. The 31-year-old for­mer shep­herd is one of more than 400,000 Le­sotho na­tion­als who live for much of the year in South Africa, forced by decades of a lack of work in the small moun­tain king­dom to seek a liveli­hood else­where.

“Mov­ing to South Africa was some­thing I could not avoid. I had very few op­tions here in Le­sotho,” Litheko told AFP. The flood of mi­grants from Le­sothoa coun­try the size of Bel­gium that is en­cir­cled by South Africa-goes back to the dis­cov­ery of gold in Jo­han­nes­burg in the 1880s, when thou­sands of men from Le­sotho were re­cruited to work in mines.

Litheko says his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther spent most of their lives as minework­ers in Jo­han­nes­burg, the first in a long line of male mem­bers of the fam­ily who were forced to mi­grate for work. “In Le­sotho there are no jobs, there is no money, that is why many peo­ple sac­ri­fice the com­fort of their home life to work in South Africa,” he said. Litheko left his vil­lage, Ha Abia, when he was 22 years old, ini­tially sneak­ing il­le­gally across the bor­der to toil on farms in nearby Lady­brand as a sea­sonal worker. “Be­fore I had a pass­port, I used to go over the moun­tains be­fore sun­rise to avoid be­ing de­tected, and come back at night.”

Send­ing money home

Now em­ployed as a mine se­cu­rity guard, Litheko of­ten works 24-hour shifts pa­trolling the bound­aries of a gold mine in Car­letonville, a gritty min­ing dis­trict south west of Jo­han­nes­burg. He saves the bulk of his weekly 550 rand ($41, 36 eu­ros) wage and sends it home at the end of each month to his wife and three chil­dren. The sum may ap­pear mea­gre, but it goes a long way in a coun­try where 56.2 per­cent of the two-mil­lion pop­u­la­tion lives in ex­treme poverty.

The World Bank puts Le­sotho job­less rate be­tween 24 and 28 per­cent. The red tape of South Africa’s immigration sys­tem, where of­fi­cials fre­quently have a rep­u­ta­tion for de­mand­ing bribes and caus­ing long de­lays, has ex­posed des­per­ate Le­sotho job seek­ers to ex­ploita­tion and cheap la­bor. “Get­ting a South African per­mit is harder than get­ting a job,” said Litheko. Le­sotho is en­closed by South Africa, and thou­sands of its cit­i­zens cross the bor­der daily, not just to work but also to shop or at­tend school. — AFP

MASERU: Peo­ple and ve­hi­cles move to cross the Le­sotho and South Africa bor­der at the Maseru bridge bor­der post on June 8, 2017 in Maseru. — AFP

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