MASERU — Lesotho’s envoy to South Africa is allegedly lobbying for dual citizenship for Basotho nationals in South Africa in a move that has angered top government officials in Maseru, the Lesotho Times can reveal.
Lineo Ntoane, Lesotho’s High Commissioner to Pretoria, is reportedly lobbying for the adoption of dual citizenship for all Basotho nationals living in South Africa.
The move apparently does not have the blessings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sources close to the matter said Ntoane wants to submit a proposal to the government of Lesotho asking it to offer dual citizenship to its nationals in South Africa who are at the receiving end of law enforcement agents in that country.
A Lesotho citizen living in South Africa, Abner Motšoari, who claims to be part of a task team set up by Ntoane to gather opinions of Basotho in the diaspora said the High Commissioner is expected to submit a formal and detailed proposal to the government by Friday next week.
Motšoari said Ntoane was working hard to push for the repeal of the constitution to allow dual citizenship for Basotho citizens.
“The High Commissioner alerted us to the fact that there are people who have legitimate rights in South Africa but whose rights are being abused because they do not know any better or do not have appropriate legal representation,” Motšoari said.
He said Basotho women married to South Africans were finding it difficult to claim their rights when their husbands die or divorce.
Some Basotho who were given IDs before South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 were now being denied their right to that country’s citizenship and were being deported to Lesotho illegally.
“The High Commissioner also wanted input into how we could stop Basotho getting involved in illegal mining because (they) are spoiling the relationships between Basotho and South Africans in areas where they are active such as Welkom,” Motšoari said.
Motšoari, in an invitation posted on social networking site Facebook, said interested Basotho should submit their contributions to the task team by next Wednesday.
Motšoari said Ntoane “would like to build a strong case for dual citizenship, which would include input on how other countries have implemented this policy”.
“Considering how important this matter is to all of us, I would urge you to please give this serious consideration to make sure that the policy reflects our desires and is based on best practice,” he said.
He added that other task team members include Professor Nqosa Mahao, a Mosotho pro-vice chancellor at the University of Northwest and one Bathobakae Makhakhe.
But the government secretary, Tlohang Sekhamane, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that cabinet had not discussed the issue in its formal sittings.
“I sit in the cabinet meetings as the secretary taking minutes and I want to declare that nothing like that has ever been discussed,” Sekhamane said.
“If the issue was discussed in the cabinet’s informal meeting where I do not attend and there is an agreement by and large, it will surely come to the formal sitting and I will know of it,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa said Lesotho’s current laws did not allow dual citizenship.
Tsekoa said he was not aware of any formal decision to sanction Ntoane to push the matter of dual citizenship.
“We as the ministry have not sanctioned the movement and we are not aware that the High Commissioner has sanctioned it,” Tsekoa said.
But Mahao confirmed that he had been appointed by Basotho in South Africa to draft a document that Ntoane will present to the Lesotho cabinet.
“The people felt that I should be part of this because I have always expressly raised the issue of free movement between Lesotho and South Africa,” Mahao said.
“I was the one who drafted the National University of Lesotho resolution on this very issue in 1991. So for the past 20 years I have actively advocated dual citizenship.”
But hardliners within the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party are said to be preparing to block the proposal.
The sources said Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had also not been consulted on Ntoane’s push for dual citizenship.
Efforts to contact Ntoane were not successful.