SA high commissioner summoned

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MASERU — Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa last week summoned South Africa’s High Commissioner to Lesotho Happy Mahlangu after he criticised his comments that the ANC-led government was worse than the South African white regime.

The Lesotho Times understands that Tsekoa told Mahlangu that he had been quoted out of context.

In an interview on Monday, Tsekoa said he was disappointed that the newspaper had chosen to focus on the border issue while ignoring his comments on the ANC’s centenary celebrations.

“I called the South African High Commissioner here to tell him that I did not call a press conference to attack the ANC government,” Tsekoa said.

“I also told him that instead of responding to the allegations in the media he should have come to me to ask what I meant by saying so instead of responding to those allegations.”

Tsekoa plunged Lesotho into a diplomatic storm after he described the ANC-led government as treating Basotho worse than the former white apartheid regime.

He said South Africa was refusing to ease movement between the two countries after Pretoria imposed tighter border controls in the run up to the World Cup in 2010.

But ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu responded harshly to Tsekoa’s comments saying he was shocked that “an African minister could ululate apartheid”.

The Lesotho Times understands that Tsekoa summoned Mahlangu for a meeting at 4pm last Thursday but the meeting was later pushed to Friday morning.

Mahlangu refused to give details of the meeting but sources at the foreign affairs ministry told the Lesotho Times that it was a tense meeting.

It is understood that Mahlangu told Tsekoa that the ANC was not happy with the statements and the minister said he would demand a retraction from the newspaper.

Tsekoa has since written to the newspaper “clarifying” his statements.

Tsekoa said he was speaking in the context of the border issue when this paper focused on the statement that the ANC-led government is “offended when told that the way it treats Basotho is worse than the dealings between the two countries during white
rule”.

Tsekoa said the situation at the borders, marked by long queues of cargo trucks, buses, private cars and pedestrians had worsened since the World Cup two years ago.

Last week, the director for media relations in South Africa’s international relations ministry, Nelson Kgwete, said South Africa did not want to enter into a “personal discussion with the Lesotho minister”.

“It’s not going to help to get into a spat, so we will only clarify the issue of border restrictions as we continue to strengthen our relations,” Kgwete told our sister paper, the Free State Times.

He added that South Africa’s border controls were not targeted at Basotho.

“We don’t believe that restrictions imposed are unreasonable. The restrictions are in line with Sadc guidelines and they are therefore not unique to Lesotho. All arrangements are intended to allow free movement while maintaining security.”

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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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