South Africa worried by liquor smuggling from Lesotho

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Limpho Sello

LESOTHO could be forced to reinstate the ban on the sale of alcohol after complaints from the South African government about the smuggling of the product from Lesotho.

Lesotho lifted the ban on liquor sales when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane announced the expiry of the lockdown on 5 May 2020. But the resumption of liquor sales has not gone down well with South Africa which has maintained a ban on the sale of alcohol during its ongoing lockdown.

Lesotho’s Health minister, Nkaku Kabi, this week said his South African counterpart Zweli Mkhize had raised concerns over Lesotho’s decision to resume alcohol sales. Mr Kabi said the South African government had asked Lesotho to re-think its policies on the sale of alcohol “to maintain cordial relations between the two countries”.

“I am told that there are South African citizens who stand on the other side of the border so that Lesotho citizens can sell them alcohol through illegal means,” Mr Kabi said.

“So, this smuggling of alcohol allows South Africans to contravene their own laws concerning the trade in alcohol.

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“This means we will have to go back and discuss this concern and decide whether to suspend the sale of alcohol in Lesotho or just tighten security at the borders so that alcohol is consumed locally. It is important to preserve our cordial relations (with South Africa).

“I also want to warn retailers and consumers to be ready for an announcement where the government could make some changes to the gazette (on public health regulations to fight Covid-19),” Mr Kabi said.

South African High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto, yesterday said SADC countries had to agree on a coordinated response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We do not expect a country to be doing one thing to fight Covid-19 and its neighbour doing something else that undermines what its neighbour is doing.

“There is need to find common ground so that we can all fight the pandemic using the best practices,” Mr Sello said.

He said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had started holding virtual meetings with SADC countries like Lesotho, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, eSwatini and Botswana to come up with common strategies to deal with the Covid-19 threat.

He said the meetings would enable the countries to complement each other in the fight against the pandemic instead of compromising each other’s efforts.

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