MASERU — A new party seeking to unify Lesotho and South Africa was launched in Maseru on Tuesday.
The African Unity Movement (AUM) says it will seek to abolish the borders between South Africa and Lesotho before pushing for the total unification of the two countries.
Its founders they were inspired by the Lesotho People’s Charter Movement (LPCM) that last year petitioned parliament and the South African High Commission seeking free border movement between the two countries.
One of the AUM’s main objectives is the repeal of section 41 of the Lesotho constitution forbidding dual citizenship.
Paanya Phoofolo, who resigned as the Basotholand African Congress (BAC) president to lead the AUM told a press conference on Tuesday that they believe that the people of Lesotho should be allowed to be legal citizens of South Africa while
preparing for a unitary state.
Phoofolo said Lesotho and South Africa should allow their citizens to have the same identity cards and passports that will “enable them to work freely and by law within these two countries”.
“Africans in this part of Mohokare River (Lesotho) and those on the other part (South Africa) were one before the colonial era. We were separated by the whites and we want to be reunited and be one like in the times of our forefathers,” Phoofolo said.
“The African Unity Movement remembers the unfortunate history of colonialism that forced Basotho to accept boundaries designed by the British colonialists and the Free State Republic in the Treaty of Aliwal North on March 12, 1869, which was signed by the whites at a summit where Basotho were denied representation.”
He also said the AUM follows the spirit of the foundation of the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in South Africa, which started as the South African Native National Congress in 1912 under the honorary presidency of Basotho’s Paramount Chief Letsie II.
Phoofolo said the ANC was established to free Africans from the grips of the looming apartheid after the Anglo-Boer war in 1899-1902, which Phoofolo describes as “the war for the benefit of whites in the black continent in exclusion of blacks.”
“Now 17 years have passed since South Africa was liberated from apartheid but problems still persist for the peoples of the two countries, especially Basotho who are denied access to stay, work and study in South Africa under its strict immigration laws”.
The AUM deputy leader, Ntahli Matete, who is a former diplomat under the Basotho National Party-led government, said the party would push for negotiations with South Africa “at the same level because we are now a political party that aims
to become government”.
Matete told the Lesotho Times in an interview that he was the one who drafted the LPCM’s petition for the free movement between Lesotho and South Africa.
He said they opted to form a political party because they “wanted to be taken seriously”.
“The Lesotho People’s Charter Movement rallied to the parliament and to the South African High Commission to petition for the free movement but it seems the petition was not taken seriously,” Matete said.
“We need to be in parliament or to become government in order to effectively push for the desired changes.
“We want to play in the same league with other political parties and governments.”
After a three-month campaign last year the LPCM managed to get 30 000 signatures from people who supported the free movement between Lesotho and South Africa.
However, Matete said although many people support the removal of borders between the two countries the AUM still has to work hard to convince the same people to join and vote for the party in the coming 2012 national elections. AUM is Lesotho’s 24th political party.