THE long-awaited South African elections have come and gone. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) registered an emphatic victory during the polls held two weeks ago.
This Saturday ANC leader Jacob Zuma will be sworn in as South Africa’s third democratically elected president.
The whole world is watching to see if the new government under Zuma will introduce drastic changes to the country’s domestic and foreign policies.
As for us here in Lesotho it is also critical that we discuss the implications of a Zuma presidency for the country.
This is critical because of our country’s geographical proximity to South Africa.
There is a conception, rightly or wrongly, that the ANC under Zuma is more sympathetic to the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.
ABC supporters say Zuma, unlike former president Thabo Mbeki, has a soft spot for Lesotho’s biggest opposition party.
I do not buy that argument.
I am sure that the ANC and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party will continue to engage at a government-to-government level.
Unlike Mbeki who was driven by his dream of an African renaissance, I think Zuma will devote most of his time on domestic issues.
He needs to deal urgently with the numerous challenges facing ordinary South Africans whose vote was critical in catapulting him into power.
We will however see some policy reviews where necessary.
South Africa’s foreign policy towards Lesotho will likely remain the same.
South Africa is still going to be protective of all its investments in Lesotho.
We could however see closer co-operation between the countries regarding the implementation of development projects.
For example, the two countries will continue to co-operate on the Matsoku phase of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority.
I think we will continue to see a flood of investments from South African firms especially in the mining sector.
The bulk of the trade will continue to be heavily tilted in South Africa’s favour. Our giant neighbour is the biggest economic powerhouse in the whole of Africa.
I personally would want to see Zuma deal with the issue of Basotho mine workers who are being constantly harassed by bosses at South African mines.
Zuma, as a strong ally of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), should defend the worker no matter where he comes from.
A lot of Basotho mine workers are being retrenched in South African mines. Basotho mine workers are extremely vulnerable in South Africa.
They are barred from membership of South African trade unions.
Basotho mine workers are easily targeted and are quickly expelled when they dare protest.
South African citizens, in contrast, receive better treatment at the mines.
I would want to see more investments coming into the country. Lesotho’s manufacturing sector is virtually non-existent.
I think more South African firms will continue to seek opportunities to do business in the retail sector.
The tourism sector presents one possible way of enhancing co-operation between the two countries.
With the 2010 World Cup football tournament behind the corner the two countries must step up their co-operation to ensure the two countries both benefit from the tournament.