PARLIAMENT this week approved the eight amendment to the constitution to allow for dual citizenship.
Home Affairs minister Tsukutlane Au welcomed the constitutional amendment, saying dual citizenship will economically benefit the country as this would allow many Basotho in the diaspora to freely invest in the country as fully-fledged citizens.
The new law will enable Basotho to regain their citizenship after renouncing it in favour of that of other countries like South Africa which is said to be a home to more than 400 000 people of Sotho origin.
Law and Public Safety Cluster Committee chairperson, Lekhetho Mosito, recently told the Lesotho Times that thousands of Basotho who went to South Africa in search of economic opportunities later acquired citizenship in that country. He said some of those people wanted to return to Lesotho upon retiring but there was a stumbling block in that the laws of Lesotho did not allow for dual citizenship.
He further said that legalising dual citizenship would not only fulfil such people’s dreams to return home but also give them the opportunity to invest in Lesotho and boost the economy.
His comments were this echoed by Mr Au who said that “for a long time, Lesotho has invested in its people’s education but they end up leaving the country to find better jobs in other countries thus leaving us with a loss when they take up other countries’ citizenships”.
“This meant that we became victims of brain drain as our constitution stated that anyone who takes up citizenship of another country automatically denounced their Lesotho citizenship.”
Mr Au said the constitutional amendment would therefore reverse the effects of the brain drain as those in the diaspora would no longer lose their citizenship if they decide to become citizens of their host countries.
“The brain drain will be reversed into a brain gain as we will now have a direct benefit on the investments.
“Our people in the diaspora are always sending remittances to Lesotho and there is proof that when countries introduce dual citizenship, the remittances increase twice or thrice and this means there is more gain from foreign direct investment,” said Mr Au.
For his part, the Minister of Trade, Tefo Mapesela said dual citizenship would “help our people who grew up in some foreign countries to return home and claim what is rightfully theirs”.
“This will also help some Basotho to come and play for the senior national soccer team which is struggling because it has no players and yet some of Lesotho’s talented players stay in South Africa,” Mr Mapesela said.
For his part, the deputy leader of the opposition Popular Front for Democracy, Thabang Kholumo, said dual citizens would be enjoy complete rights including to land ownership in the country.
The legalisation of dual citizenship follows widespread support among Basotho in recent times.
In May this year, the Afrobarometer Research Institute, released findings which showed that there were growing calls for the legalisation of dual citizenship in Lesotho.
Afrobarometer found that 77 percent of Basotho favour dual citizenship with South Africa and 72 percent favour dual citizenship with any other country.
“Results of a new Afrobarometer survey show strong – and increasing – public support for legalising dual citizenship with South Africa, as well as a clear preference for legalising dual citizenship in general,” Afrobarometer stated.
The research network said the growth in the numbers of Basotho demanding the legalising of dual citizenship with South Africa reflects a huge increase from 48 percent who were in favour in 2014.
Drawing on articles in the Lesotho Times and its sister Sunday Express publication, Afrobarometer stated that “noting that Lesotho is losing social and economic benefits by not allowing dual citizenship, the government has submitted to parliament a bill to amend the constitution to allow for dual citizenship”.
“The World Bank (2017) estimates that remittance inflows to Lesotho have dropped from a high of US$647 million in 2011 to $367 million in 2017, including $331 million from South Africa.
“As Lesotho embarks on a highly anticipated multi-sectoral reform process called for by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in an attempt to bring lasting peace and stability, dual citizenship counts among constitutional issues that will be debated,” Afrobarometer further stated.