MASERU — Lesotho’s civic groups yesterday appealed to South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to ensure there is free movement between the two countries’ borders.
The civic groups are working under the auspices of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN).
Zuma is expected in Lesotho today on a two-day state visit.
The South African president is expected to address a joint sitting of parliament as well as Lesotho’s business community tomorrow.
In a statement to the media yesterday, the LCN said it was concerned that since the signing of the Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross Border Movement of Citizens of South Africa and Lesotho in Cape Town in 2007, the agreement had not been fully implemented.
“We are however concerned that since the signing of the agreement there does not seem to be any movement towards the implementation of the said agreement.
“Instead the movement of Basotho into the Republic of South Africa has been tightened since the Fifa World Cup tournament held in South Africa.
“This is clearly not a sign towards the implementation of the said agreement,” the civic group said.
The LCN said it therefore calls “upon President Zuma to ensure that the movement at the border post comes to normality”.
The civic group also wants Zuma and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to “give a timeline” on the implementation of the agreement.
South Africa tightened its borders in June during the World Cup tournament.
Pretoria suspended the issuance of the special six-month permits that allowed Basotho to cross into South Africa without having their passports scanned.
It also banned the use of temporary travel documents by Basotho.
The measures were met with loud protests from thousands of Basotho who cross into South Africa regularly.
South African businesses also complained bitterly over the new measures as they were forced to wait for long hours to be cleared at the border.
Although the situation at the borders has improved significantly there are still fears that the new measures are inconveniencing Basotho who need to cross into South Africa.
“President Zuma should ensure that cross-border transport operates smoothly in South Africa as has been agreed as Sadc and ensure that Basotho enjoy cross border trade in South Africa as South Africans do in Lesotho,” the statement said.
The LCN also said the Joint Bilateral Commission of Co-operation Agreement (JBCC) signed between the two countries in 2001 had not benefited Lesotho due to the “sluggish implementation” of the agreement.
The civic group said the two leaders must agree on a time-frame to implement these agreements to help in the monitoring of the implementation of the deals.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa told parliament in June that Lesotho and South Africa will sign an agreement aimed at protecting investments made by Basotho businessmen in South Africa and South African traders who invest in Lesotho.