One gar­den in two coun­tries

Le­sotho and South African gov­ern­ments in land­mark ini­tia­tives to solve their com­plex re­la­tion­ship

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

The Min­istry of home Af­fairs has em­barked on a na­tion­wide cam­paign to reg­is­ter Ba­sotho liv­ing close to the South African bor­der for spe­cial passes. The passes would en­able the res­i­dents to cross into South Africa with­out hav­ing to use reg­u­lar bor­der-posts but com­mu­nity cross­ings.

The cam­paign kick-started in Mo­hale’s hoek on Fri­day last week, with scores of Liphir­ing res­i­dents reg­is­ter­ing for the ini­tia­tive, which is be­ing held in con­junc­tion with South Africa’s Depart­ment of home Af­fairs.

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, home Af­fairs Deputy Min­is­ter Phal­lang Monare, who led Le­sotho’s del­e­ga­tion to Mo­hale’s hoek last week for the launch, speaks with Le­sotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, about this and other ini­tia­tives the two neigh­bours are ex­plor­ing to make the lives of their cit­i­zens bet­ter.

LT: A land­mark ini­tia­tive, one would say, and one Ba­sotho have been seek­ing for years. Could you tell us more about this cross-bor­der ar­range­ment the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs has en­tered into with South Africa?

Monare: Per­haps I should start by stat­ing that there are about five is­sues we are cur­rently work­ing on with South Africa to im­prove our re­la­tions.

The first is what we call spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion, where we would want to reg­u­larise the sta­tus of Ba­sotho in South Africa.

We have Ba­sotho stay­ing in South Africa il­le­gally; they just live there with­out proper doc­u­men­ta­tion.

We are work­ing to­gether so that those peo­ple will end up hav­ing proper doc­u­ments and their stay in South Africa le­gal­ized.

If push comes to shove, we are go­ing to visit them in South Africa and try to lo­cate all of them so that we reg­is­ter them for this dis­pen­sa­tion.

We are al­ready work­ing on this to­gether with our re­spec­tive em­bassies. For in­stance, we have about 25 Ba­sotho in Pre­to­ria who in­formed us that they had al­ready heard about this ini­tia­tive and would like us to visit them.

LT: And the other is­sues?

Monare: The sec­ond is­sue is of move­ment be­tween our two coun­tries. We would want to get rid of this is­sue of stamp­ing pass­ports ev­ery time we cross the bor­der into South Africa.

This wastes time and cre­ates prob­lems as the doc­u­ment fills up quickly and the holder would fre­quently have to get a new one.

So at the mo­ment, we have al­ready placed new ma­chin­ery at the main bor­der-posts so that the pass­port will sim­ply be scanned.

We are at an ad­vanced stage on this ini­tia­tive. The third one con­cerns Ba­sotho study­ing in South Africa. We are work­ing to­wards hav­ing spe­cial visas for th­ese stu­dents.

Again, we have what we call the Trusted Trav­ellers Sys­tem. This is where we are go­ing to iden­tify peo­ple who reg­u­larly travel to South Africa and also is­sue them with spe­cial per­mits.

They should be known and made avail­able in the sys­tem so that their fre­quent travel to South Africa or Le­sotho is made eas­ier. Then we have the last one which we re­fer to as the Com­mu­nity Bor­der-cross­ing.

LT: Could you please ex­plain what this Com­mu­nity Bor­der-cross­ing is?

Monare: We have about eight of- fi­cial points of en­try into the coun­try from South Africa. On the other hand, we also have what we call com­mu­nity bor­der-cross­ings which are not of­fi­cial.

You saw this as we launched this ini­tia­tive in Liphir­ing on Fri­day; you saw how some Ba­sotho are so close to South Africa. You saw how some­one’s res­i­dence is so near the bor­der­line that it be­comes un­fair to re­strict such a per­son from trav­el­ling just across to do his or her busi­ness.

The sit­u­a­tion is al­most like di­vid­ing some­one’s gar­den into two coun­tries; one part of his land is in Le­sotho while the other one is on the other side of the coun­try!

I grew up there, which is why I re­mem­ber how, re­gard­less of the bor­der­line, we used to treat each other like one com­mu­nity.

It was nor­mal for peo­ple to cross the bor­der just to buy tra­di­tional beer, drink it there and come home later.

This was done on a daily ba­sis and no­body cared whether the cross-bor­der move­ment was le­gal or il­le­gal. For me, I pre­fer us­ing the words for­mal or in­for­mal in­stead of le­gal and il­le­gal in this in­stance.

LT: But how did this hap­pen? Why was the bor­der drawn the way it is now where rel­a­tives ended up be­ing split be­tween Le­sotho and South Africa?

Monare: South African of­fi­cials even used some places in Botswana as ex­am­ples, where you find what is sup­posed to be one vil­lage di­vided by the bor­der.

You find that the vil­lagers are even one tribe. how do you ex­pect such a com­mu­nity to live con­sid­er­ing the bor­der­line?

It does not make sense that peo­ple from Liphir­ing should travel all the way to far­away of­fi­cial cross­ing points at Van Rooyen’s Gate or Makhaleng, when all they need is to buy milk from a neigh­bour just across the bor­der.

So against this back­ground, we sat down with our South African coun­ter­parts and came up with a plan that is specif­i­cally tar­geted at le­gal­is­ing and eas­ing cross-bor­der move­ment for th­ese com­mu­ni­ties right where they are.

The cur­rent sur­vey we are con­duct­ing is set to de­ter­mine even the num­ber of peo­ple who will need those spe­cial passes, which I be­lieve will come in the form of stick­ers to be at­tached within their pass­ports.

This is to say the ba­sic re­quire­ment, even be­fore one can qual­ify for the spe­cial sticker, is a pass­port. The sur­vey will also re­veal why th­ese peo­ple keep trav­el­ling to South Africa.

LT: What is go­ing to hap­pen af­ter the sur­vey?

Monare: At the end of the sur­vey, a re­port with de­tails about the num­ber of peo­ple and the rea­sons why they need that spe­cial doc­u­ment, will be is­sued.

We will then see which of th­ese com­mu­nity bor­der-gates should be opened for them. The fact is whether we like it or not, they are still cross­ing in­for­mally. So re­ally, we need to reg­u­larise the move­ment.

LT: Apart from Liphir­ing, which are the other lo­ca­tions iden­ti­fied for this ini­tia­tive?

Monare: In Mo­hale’s hoek, we also have Moko­roane iden­ti­fied for the project. We fur­ther have Tšu­pane in Mafeteng.

Other vil­lages are found in Peka in Leribe dis­trict, which are Le­buru, Patsa, Tabola, Monyane, Lephodisa, Masakale, Mat­soete and Chaka. And in Butha-buthe, we have Phoku.

LT: What do the vil­lagers need to reg­is­ter? Monare: We need their fin­ger­prints and full iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. This is be­cause we are say­ing this is only meant for those peo­ple liv­ing at the edge of the bor­der.

Peo­ple from other parts of the coun­try should not be seen tak­ing ad­van­tage of this sys­tem to push their agen­das in South Africa.

As a min­istry, we are also go­ing to make sure those par­tic­u­lar peo­ple are pro­vided with full iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing pass­ports, where they don’t have them, so that they will qual­ify for the spe­cial passes.

LT: In the past, there have been com­plaints of cross-bor­der theft and other crimes. Isn’t this ini­tia­tive go­ing to com­pro­mise se­cu­rity in the two coun­tries?

Monare: Po­lice of­fi­cers are go­ing to be de­ployed at those com­mu­nity bor­ders. As we speak, South Africa has al­ready un­der­taken to de­ploy 10 of­fi­cers at each of the bor­ders. We will fol­low suit.

The rea­son why we want th­ese par­tic­u­lar peo­ple to reg­is­ter is sim­ply so that there is con­trol of move­ment be­tween the two coun­tries.

If there is con­trol, it means is­sues such as cross-bor­der theft and other crimes will be well taken care of.

In other words, we are curb­ing crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties by im­ple­ment­ing th­ese ini­tia­tives. So ba­si­cally, in a way, we are tight­en­ing cross-bor­der se­cu­rity through th­ese pro­cesses.

LT: When can we ex­pect all th­ese ini­tia­tives to be im­ple­mented?

Monare: The dead­lines for all the five is­sues I have re­ferred to dif­fer. how­ever, we an­tic­i­pate that some, if not most of them, will be im­planted in 2016.

For in­stance, it is in­di­cated in the agree­ment be­tween our two coun­tries that com­mence­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion modal­i­ties will be an­nounced by the re­spec­tive home Af­fairs min­is­ters (Malusi Gi­gaba of South Africa and Lekhetho Rakuoane of Le­sotho) in due course.

This is par­tic­u­larly the case with the is­sue of spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion for un­doc­u­mented Ba­sotho in South Africa.

For the com­mu­nity bor­der cross­ing, we will just wait for the sur­vey to be com­pleted and a re­port is made.

Soon af­ter the re­port, we be­lieve it will be im­ple­mented. But with the spe­cial study per­mits, the com­mence­ment date of Jan­uary 2016 has been def­i­nitely set.

LT: What can you say about Le­sotho’s re­la­tions with South Africa, at the mo­ment?

Monare: In my opin­ion, our re­la­tions with South Africa seem to be rapidly im­prov­ing. The only thing that ru­ins the re­la­tion­ship is crime.

If we can fight cross-bor­der crime, then there is no rea­son to worry about our re­la­tions with South Africa.

You see the rea­son why the six­month visas, which were be­ing is­sued to reg­u­lar Ba­sotho trav­el­ers, were stopped was be­cause some peo­ple had taken ad­van­tage and used them for crim­i­nal pur­poses.

Crim­i­nals would use the visas to hide in either of the two coun­tries. So, even as we are im­ple­ment­ing th­ese new ini­tia­tives to im­prove our re­la­tions with South Africa, it will be a waste if peo­ple are go­ing to com­mit crime through th­ese ini­tia­tives.

We are there­fore ap­peal­ing to Ba­sotho to make good use of the ini­tia­tives and not mis­use them as that will only lead to wors­en­ing the re­la­tion­ship.

LT: Le­sotho is a sov­er­eign state, so is there a spe­cific rea­son why it should get spe­cial treat­ment from South Africa?

Monare: Le­sotho is a very spe­cial coun­try in the whole world. There are sev­eral other coun­tries which are neigh­bours to South Africa, but as for us, we are a spe­cial neigh­bour be­cause South Africa is our only neigh­bour.

We are one na­tion which is com­pletely land­locked by an­other coun­try, which is South Africa. That is how spe­cial we should be treated in re­turn. We share his­tory with South Africa.

I am not say­ing we should not have re­la­tions with other coun­tries, but I am say­ing we must have spe­cial re­la­tions with South Africa. We are unique be­cause nowhere else in the world will you find any other coun­try land­locked by an­other.

There are other coun­tries which are land­locked, but they share bor­ders with many coun­tries, not just one. Our sit­u­a­tion is there­fore unique, in that con­text.

LT: What mes­sage do you want to con­vey to the na­tion as you em­bark on th­ese land­mark ini­tia­tives?

Monare: We can only ap­peal not only to Ba­sotho, but to the South Africans as well, to make good use of th­ese ini­tia­tives. They should value them be­cause they are meant to sim­plify their lives.

You see, South Africa has some of its mar­ket places so near Le­sotho that you find that Ba­sotho are the only cus­tomers for such busi­nesses.

If it is not made eas­ier for Ba­sotho to cross to the mar­kets, then there would be no busi­ness at those mar­kets; they would col­lapse as a re­sult.

Home Af­fairs Deputy min­is­ter Phal­lang monare crosses the com­mu­nity bor­der in Liphir­ing af­ter it was re-opened on Fri­day last week. The gate had been closed for three years fol­low­ing a court or­der ob­tained by a South African farmer who acused Ba­sotho of com­mit­ting crime on his land.

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