MASERU — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane yesterday left Maseru to meet with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, the Lesotho Times has learnt.
Although there was no official confirmation about the trip, a source within Thabane’s coalition government told this paper that the agenda of the meeting in Pretoria was to “discuss Lesotho’s relations with South Africa over the next five years”.
“The Prime Minister is meeting with President Jacob Zuma today in Pretoria to discuss working relations between Lesotho and South Africa,” the source said yesterday.
Thabane himself yesterday pulled out of an interview with this paper saying he had to travel out of the country.
When contacted for comment, the All Basotho Convention’s secretary general, Thabiso Lits’iba, declined to divulge the agenda of Thabane’s meeting with Zuma but said he was aware the premier had travelled to South Africa “because it’s an official visit”.
“I don’t know what he has gone to do in South Africa. I can’t comment on that one because it’s not a party visit. He has gone there on state business,” Lits’iba said.
Lits’iba then referred this paper government secretary Motlatsi Ramafole.
However, attempts by this paper to contact Ramafole proved futile as he was not available on his phone.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Lesotho, Happy Mahlangu, also declined to comment on the agenda of the meeting saying he had not been “told about the meeting”.
“I don’t know what the agenda of the meeting is as I wasn’t told about it,” Mahlangu said.
Last weekend South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a congratulatory statement to Thabane and undertook to enhance working relations between the two governments.
“The South African government congratulates the Kingdom of Lesotho Prime Minister, Mr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane,” the statement read.
“The South African government has noted the announcement of a coalition by a number of political parties which took part in the Lesotho national assembly elections held on May 26, 2012, leading to Mr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane being appointed as the new Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho.”
The statement also said that South Africa wished to extend its sincere congratulations to Thabane on his election adding the country wished to reaffirm its desire to further enhance its strong relations with Lesotho.
“Furthermore, the South African government reiterates its commitment to continue working with the government and the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho with a strong emphasis on devising mechanisms and processes to ensure rapid development in existing and new bilateral projects for the mutual benefit of the two countries,” the statement said.
“South Africa remains committed to regional integration and sees the Kingdom of Lesotho as a strategic partner in the pursuit of development as aligned with the principles of the African Union and NEPAD.”
Relations between Lesotho and South Africa were strained under the previous government after Pretoria tightened its borders two years ago. The new restrictions saw long queues at the Maseru border post.
During his election campaign Thabane promised to improve relations between Lesotho and its giant neighbour.