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by Lesotho Times

Deputy PM rushes to Pretoria to defuse crisis


MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla has been dispatched to Pretoria to try and defuse a diplomatic row touched off by South Africa’s new stringent border controls.

Lehohla, who is also Lesotho’s home affairs minister, is expected to report back in Maseru today as chaos at the country’s main border posts mount.

South Africa has barred thousands of Basotho from crossing into the kingdom’s only neighbour using temporary travel documents, leading to chaos at Lesotho’s 14 border posts.

At Maseru Bridge, Lesotho’s biggest and busiest border with South Africa, motorists and pedestrians have since Sunday been spending up to four hours in queues.

South Africa has also cancelled the six months permit — a special arrangement that allowed Basotho to cross the border for half a year without having their passports being stamped.

Lehohla this week met South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Pretoria.

He told the Lesotho Times from Pretoria that he was meeting South African authorities to deal with the matter.

Lehohla’s diplomatic efforts came as it emerged that civic organisations in the country were planning to stage protests against South Africa’s border measures.

The protest is expected to take place at the South African High Commission in Maseru, coinciding with the kick off of the World Cup in Johannesburg tomorrow.

Pressure is also mounting from opposition parties who yesterday asked speaker of parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai and Lehohla to urgently reconvene parliament to deal with the matter.

Parliament is currently on a three month-winter break.

The opposition met yesterday morning.

The parties said parliament should reconvene to discuss “the ensuing inter-border and passport crisis in Lesotho”.

They said parliament should discuss and find a “workable solution to the crisis at hand”.

“We wish to assure you of our utmost support, to share with you and assure you of our bona fides in this matter which is of great national importance to our people.”

The request was signed by leaders of the All Basotho Convention, Basutoland African Congress, Basotho Democratic National Party, Basotho National Party, Lesotho Worker’s Party and Marematlou Freedom Party.

When contacted for comment yesterday afternoon on the opposition’s request Motsamai said she could not respond to the questions because she had not yet seen the letter.

“I have not yet received the letter you are referring to,” Motsamai said.

Lehohla said: “I have not seen the letter but will attend to it when I get back home. I am currently in Pretoria to discuss the issue in question with the South African government.

“Also note that this issue might not need parliament to reconvene to be sorted. We will first have to explore its merits and decide what to do thereafter.”

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