LESOTHO has been urged to maintain peace as a precondition to accessing international support for economic development as well as knowledge transfer to improve its human resource base.
Israel’s ambassador to Lesotho, Arthur Lenk made the call in a recent interview with the Lesotho Times, where he also revealed that the perennial political instability had prevented Basotho from benefitting from assistance programmes offered by the Israeli government.
Mr Lenk said Israel and Africa were neighbours whose relations dated back to biblical times “when Jacob and his sons wandered to Egypt in Africa”.
“Israel is the only country in the world with a physical connection with Africa. You can walk from Israel to Egypt in Africa and from Africa to Israel,” Ambassador Lenk said, adding, “anyone who knows the Bible knows that Abraham, Jacob and sons all walked from Israel to Africa”.
He said in the present times, there were several opportunities for cooperation and mutually beneficial ties, adding that Lesotho in particular could benefit from Israel’s expertise in the areas of health and medicine, entrepreneurship and in water management in drought conditions.
He said Israeli-Lesotho ties dated back to the time of the latter’s independence, adding many Basotho had benefitted from skills transfer from the Israeli government’s official international development cooperation programme known as Mashav which was established in 1957.
He said it was unfortunate that cooperation had stalled as a result of perennial instability in Lesotho. Lesotho has experienced instability which has resulted in the frequent collapse of governments in 2012, 2015 and most recently this year.
A new coalition government headed by All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane recently took office after snap parliamentary elections on 3 June.
“I know in the past lots of experts from Lesotho have come to Israel, gained experience on our Mashav training programmes,” Mr Lenk said.
“What I would like to see and hope that we do with the new government is re-energise our cooperation in Mashav and hopefully there will be more Basotho who will travel to Israel and gain experience.”
He said plans for cooperation has been put on hold after the collapse of the previous government led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili early this year.
“Last year at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, our Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu met with the former Prime Minister of Lesotho Mr Mosisili and after that meeting, your former Prime Minister asked me to come to Lesotho and I was there in January to talk about areas of cooperation.
“Right after that your government fell and you went for elections and so we have been holding back in the last couple of months but Israel is open to a visit from your Prime Minister and other government officials and there is a real interest and appreciation for Lesotho.”
He said one of the things they were hoping to do once the new government had settled down was “to re-engage and define areas of cooperation and water is one of them”.
“Another one is agriculture. Israel is very famous around the world for irrigation and other agricultural skills.
“We are witnessing a growth of cooperation and the reason is that African countries including Lesotho are looking at resolving some of their vexing challenges including issues of food security in a situation of drought.
“I think African countries look at Israel and say to themselves, how did this tiny country, which is half the size of Lesotho, manage in an arid area and tough neighbourhood after being established after the Second World War. They are saying if Israel can succeed so can we,” Mr Lenk said.
He said Africa had become so important to Israel that Prime Minister, Netanyahu would visit the west African nation of Togo in October for an economic summit where southern African leaders including Prime Minister Thomas Thabane would be invited to attend.
He said unlike other developed nations, the Israeli model of assistance was premised on knowledge and skills transfer rather than cash handouts.
“Some countries write a cheque and give cash but our tradition is knowledge transfer.”
He urged Basotho to take advantages of free scholarships offered under the Mashav programme to gain skills in different fields including Agriculture, Water Management and Modern Irrigation Technologies, Innovative Entrepreneurship and Medicine and Public Health.
A full list of the programmes and applications can be made on the Israeli government website: http://embassies.gov.il/pretoria/Mashav/Pages/Mashav.aspx.
Enquiries can also be directed to Linda McEwen on the telephone number +2712 470 3504.