Basotho getting raw deal across the border

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AS I SEE IT

THE purpose of this article is to assess the concept of African renaissance from a layman’s point of view.

I want to assess its relevance to me as a Mosotho man.

The concept is known by academics and intellectuals as rebirth, regeneration and renewal of African people to ensure social, cultural, economic and political emancipation.

I first heard the concept in May 1996 during a radio talk show following a ground-breaking speech by the then deputy president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki said: “I am an African, I owe my being to the hills and valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever changing seasons that define the face of our native land.”

I was blown away by the speech’s poetic melody.

This was Mbeki at his poetic best.

The idea that he espoused sounded so fresh and original.

I thought here was a man who at last would change the world’s perception about African leaders.

Mbeki did try to make a change.

South Africa experienced stunning economic growth under Mbeki’s stewardship.

Many South Africans are counted among the wealthy individuals in the world.

There are millionaires and billionaires who can hold their own with their compatriots from Russia, England and the United States.

Last month South Africa elected Jacob Zuma as president.

Zuma was sworn in as president on 9 May in Tshwane.

In his acceptance speech Zuma paid homage to his predecessors and lauded Mbeki for laying a great foundation for economic growth.

He also said he wanted to return the country back to the days of reconciliation and brotherhood that the country experienced under Nelson Mandela.

I expected to hear Zuma’s foreign policy pronouncements regarding his country’s relationship with Lesotho, his country’s immediate neighbour.

I did not hear any pronouncements on the matter. Maybe it was too early.

It is well known that during South Africa’s liberation struggle Lesotho became the second home to struggle heroes such as Chris Hani.

We gave sanctuary to scores of Umkhonto weSizwe freedom fighters.

Basotho have also played a key role in building a vibrant economy in our giant neigbour.

They toiled in the diamond, gold, nickel and coal mines across South Africa.

But today Basotho are being treated badly in South Africa.

They face deportations day and night by overzealous immigration officers.

We struggle to go to South Africa to look for employment as the authorities there demand work permits.

Getting a study permit is a nightmare.

The applications take forever before they are approved.

Immigration officers and Home Affairs officials who process the work and study permits are thoroughly corrupt.

They demand bribes before they can process your papers.

The current borders are a colonial creation. Africans used to live freely although there were a lot of battles such as lifaqane for resources.

It is my dream to see Africans uniting one day. I want to see an Africa that is ready to claim its position in the world economy.

Africa is endowed with rich natural resources. Africa must unite, as the late reggae artist Bob Marley said.

I think we now have two of the most charismatic presidents who can steer Africa towards a rebirth. I think Zuma and United States’ President Barack Obama can help regenerate Africa.

It is my dream to see the children of Africa rejoicing and embracing each other as brothers and sisters.

As Africans we should be embracing Ubuntu and helping each other fight against poverty, disease and crime.

I hope the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa will help end social ills such as xenophobia that we saw last year. Africa is our land where we should live like kings and queens.

In 1961 the then president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, said: “The critics of African unity often refer to the wide differences in culture, language and ideas in various parts of Africa.

This is true, but the essential fact remains that we are all Africans and have a common interest in the independence of Africa.

“If the need for political union is agreed by us all, then the will to create it is born and where there’s a will there’s a way.”

This is an ideal that is achievable. Nkrumah said this is our chance. We must act now to claim our future.

 

THE main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party was formed amid pomp and fanfare in October 2006.

The feeling among the hundreds of thousands of Basotho particularly in urban areas was that the new party would promote and defend their interests.

 

 

 

 

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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