SOCIAL Development Minister Molahlehi Letlotlo and his South African counterpart, Bathabile Dlamini, yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enhance cross-border cooperation on the movement of vulnerable groups.
The MOU, which was inked at the Free State Legislature in Bloemfontein, is meant to stem the trafficking of children, women and other vulnerable groups.
The final agreement will be signed at a later stage after aligning it with the two countries’ laws.
Among the dignitaries in attendance during the ceremony was Bloemfontein Member of Executive Council for Social Development Sisi Ntombela and Free State Legislature Speaker Mamiki Qabathe.
Mr Letlotlo said the newly-forged relationship between the two countries was meant to improve the lives of vulnerable groups who had borne the brunt of uncoordinated cross-border laws.
“In trying to offer quality services to vulnerable members of society, we have concluded this agreement which will afford us the opportunity to measure our goals,” he said.
“We are in agreement that our countries are faced with a huge challenge on a variety of issues affecting vulnerable people, particularly children. This calls for constant consultations to exchange and review programmes as we strive to better their socio-economic status.”
Mr Letlotlo added: “The occasion of the signing of the MOU marks a significant milestone in the long history of cooperation between our two sister countries.
“The Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa share borders, culture and most importantly many Basotho work and reside in South Africa hence there are some shared responsibilities between the two countries. This important document is a crucial instrument that renders guidance towards effective care and support to our vulnerable people.”
In her remarks, Ms Dlamini echoed similar sentiments, saying the two countries shared a commitment to work together to alleviate the plight of their nationals.
“The joint Bilateral Commission for Cooperation between our two countries clearly indicates that we are united in our vision to achieve the economic and social upliftment of our people,” she said.
“Most importantly, it reflects African solidarity and our governments’ collective commitment to everlasting peace and development in the African continent. This agreement is therefore part of this cooperation and we need to ensure that we regularly report on progress.”
Ms Dlamini said the two countries were committed to enhancing cross-border relations as expressed in the Joint Bilateral Commission for Cooperation (JBCC). The JBCC is the agreed framework for cooperation between Lesotho and South Africa.
“Our commonalities do not end only with language, geography and culture, but our destiny, development and hopes are inextricably intertwined, hence our common resolve to continue working together for the promotion of bilateral cooperation that contributes to poverty reduction,” she said.
She appealed to the implementers of the MOU to work speedily to draft the final agreement, adding that it would enable the two countries to learn from their experiences.
“Signing this agreement gives us an opportunity to share our experiences as a country as well as learn from our counterparts in Lesotho. I would like to urge our officials to move with speed in finalising the implementation plan so that we waste no time in getting down to work. It is also important to involve the Free State Province as a partner during the implementation of the agreement because of their geographical proximity to Lesotho,” Ms Dlamini said.
“Through this cooperation, the people of South Africa and Lesotho are coming together to respond to the challenges of our time and to create a more humane world where our people, both young and old can prosper and reach their potential.”