Le­sotho fumes over ill-treat­ment of King Let­sie III

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

ADIPLOMATIC row has erupted be­tween Le­sotho and South Africa over the ill-treat­ment of King Let­sie III by overzeal­ous of­fi­cials at the Maseru bor­der post.

South Africa’s re­cently ap­pointed Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, Lindiwe Sisulu, has since an­nounced she would soon visit Le­sotho to per­son­ally apol­o­gize to King Let­sie over the “ha­rass­ment and em­bar­rass­ment” in­flicted upon him by South African im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials dur­ing His Majesty’s re­turn trip from Dur­ban.

What has miffed Le­sotho most, ac­cord­ing to Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Le­sego Mak­gothi (pic­tured), is that for­mer South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and his ad­min­is­tra­tion ig­nored the mat­ter af­ter Le­sotho lodged an of­fi­cial protest.

Nar­rat­ing the King’s or­deal at the hands of the South African bor­der po­lice, Mr Mak­gothi said the King’s mo­tor­cade was stopped and searched early last month by the South African Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS) at the Maseru Bor­der Gate de­spite stand­ing pro­to­col that this should never. Dur­ing the search, the SAPS of­fi­cials de­manded per­mits for guns and am­mu­ni­tion car­ried by the King’s body­guards.

Mr Mak­gothi said the stop and search ex­er­cise was car­ried out de­spite the fact that a pro­to­col of­fi­cer as­signed to His Majesty had ap­plied and been granted clear­ance for the body­guards’ guns and am­mu­ni­tion five hours be­fore de­par­ture to Dur­ban.

The Min­is­ter said His Majesty, the prime min­is­ter and his deputy are re­quired to file for clear­ance two to four hours be­fore de­part­ing Le­sotho to avoid be­ing stopped and searched by South African po­lice.

He said His Majesty crossed into South Africa with­out any has­sles, af­ter the prior grant­ing of the clear­ance, but all hell broke loose on his re­turn.

“It (the in­ci­dent) hap­pened at the begin­ning of Fe­bru­ary when His Majesty went to Dur­ban on pri­vate busi­ness and the pro­to­col of­fice fol­lowed the nor­mal pro­ce­dure of re­quest­ing clear­ance for the guns… The clear­ance was ac­tu­ally re­quested and granted five hours be­fore de­par­ture.

“On his re­turn, the King was stopped at the bor­der gate for more than an hour when the South African po­lice de­manded per­mits for the guns ….When they (po­lice of­fi­cers) were in­formed that the clear­ances were is­sued be­fore trav­el­ling to South Africa, the po­lice who had al­ready opened the boot of his car tried to search his clothes. That was when His Majesty’s body­guards stood their ground and told them to never search his clothes,” Mr Mak­gothi said.

The Min­is­ter said His Majesty’s pro­to­col of­fi­cer called him af­ter the in­ci­dent and he im­me­di­ately alerted the South African High Com­mis­sioner to Le­sotho, Sello Moloto, of the diplo­matic gaffe.

“I sum­moned Ntate Moloto and gave him a diplo­matic note to pass on to the South Af- ri­can gov­ern­ment de­tail­ing the ha­rass­ment and em­bar­rass­ment the King was sub­jected to when his cars were stopped and searched for over an hour.

“I de­manded a meet­ing with rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties in South Africa and un­for­tu­nately that fell on deaf ears. Two days later, I met with the Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane and re­quested him to write to then Pres­i­dent Zuma re­quest­ing a meet­ing over the is­sue. But Mr Zuma didn’t take this mat­ter se­ri­ously,” Mr Mak­gothi said.

He said Dr Tha­bane’s raised the is­sue with Mr Zuma at a meet­ing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but this fell on deaf ears as the for­mer pres­i­dent ca­su­ally re­torted that the is­sue would be dis­cussed on some un­spec­i­fied fu­ture date.

Af­ter Mr Zuma’s fall and his sub­se­quent re­place­ment by Cyril Ramaphosa later in Fe­bru­ary, Mr Mak­gothi said he wrote a fresh let­ter to Ms Sisulu in­di­cat­ing the need for the mat­ter to be ur­gently ad­dressed.

The two min­is­ters sub­se­quently met this week on the side­lines of the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) coun­cil of min­is­ters meet­ing in Pre­to­ria.

“We met on Tues­day and dis­cussed this and other is­sues and she (Ms Sisulu) said they were very em­bar­rassed that the mat­ter had not been at­tended to. She said South Africa didn’t want to spoil its good bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with Le­sotho as it was fully aware of the his­tory it shared with Le­sotho,” he said.

He said Ms Sisulu then made a com­mit­ment to travel to Le­sotho im­me­di­ately af­ter this week­end’s Easter hol­i­days to per­son­ally apol­o­gise to His Majesty for the bad treat­ment he suf­fered at the hands of the bor­der of­fi­cials.

At a press con­fer­ence on Tues­day evening, Ms Sisulu ex­pressed deep re­gret over the mis­treat­ment of the King.

“I›ve just had a meet­ing with the For­eign Min­is­ter of Le­sotho. As you know, we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing prob­lems at the (Maseru) bor­der…. The King of Le­sotho is ex­tremely ag­grieved by the way he was treated at the bor­der. I have ex­pressed to him (Mr Mak­gothi) my sin­cer­est apolo­gies for what hap­pened.

“I have in­di­cated to him that I will per­son­ally go to Le­sotho to apol­o­gise to the King for any ill-treat­ment he might have en­coun­tered at our bor­der,” Ms Sisulu said.

Ms Sisulu said South Africa’s Home Af­fairs min­is­ter, Malusi Gi­gaba, would travel to the Maseru bor­der this week as part of the high level in­ter­ven­tion to dif­fuse the mat­ter.

Ms Silulu’s in­ter­ven­tion comes amid threats by ag­grieved Ba­sotho to block­ade the busy bor­der post next week to protest the poor ser­vice which or­di­nary trav­ellers are be­ing sub­jected to on the South African side.

Long queues have be­come com­mon­place as South African im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are of­ten not at their posts to serve trav­ellers while those in at­ten­dance op­er­ate at a snail’s pace and ap­pear to be on a per­ma­nent go slow.

“He (Mr Gi­gaba) is on his way to the bor­der post so that he can deal with some of the ad­min­is­tra­tive prob­lems that have been brought to our at­ten­tion by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho. The com­plaint from the King was up­per­most in his mind. We are also very con­cerned about what might hap­pen there (at the bor­der post) and there­fore we need to nor­malise the sit­u­a­tion,” Ms Sisulu said.

Mean­while, a pe­ti­tion drafted by a lo­cal po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Clifford Le­sego ti­tled ‘Repub­lic of South Africa should #Re­spec­tourk­ing

#Re­spect­ba­sotho’ has been gain­ing mo­men­tum on so­cial me­dia.

The pe­ti­tion is ad­dressed to Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa, Dr Tha­bane, Ms Sisulu, Mr Gi­giba, Mr Mak­gothi, and Home Af­fairs min­is­ter Tsukut­lane Au.

“While we ap­pre­ci­ate that Le­sotho is com­pletely sur­rounded by the mighty Repub­lic of South Africa, RSA must know that Le­sotho is a sov­er­eign state and a demo­cratic monar­chy. Our King is a sym­bol of unity and peace. RSA should know that they can mess up with us as much as they want but NOT with our King,” part of the pe­ti­tion states.

“Our King was sub­jected to the worst treat­ment ever. A Head of state be­ing taken out of his of­fi­cial car and searched? Your apol­ogy is not very im­por­tant. What is im­por­tant is for you to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion in your coun­try. Your peo­ple and gov­ern­ment should re­spect Le­sotho and Ba­sotho,” the pe­ti­tion fur­ther states.

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