Rights group to push for dual citizenship

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Mabusetsa Lenka ThamaeBilly Ntaote

The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) has embarked on a campaign aimed at putting  pressure on government and parliament to legalise dual citizenship.

According to the rights organisation’s Programmes Manager, Mabusetsa Lenka Thamae, the campaign seeks to see dual citizenship included in constitutional reforms the country is expected to undertake soon.

Mr Thamae added King Letsie III had made TRC’s lobbying easier after ordering government, in his Speech from the Throne last month during the re-opening of the 9th Parliament, to review the country’s 1992 constitution. The TRC would like to ensure legalising dual citizenship is part of the constitutional reforms, Mr Thamae added.

“We need to see Section 41 of the constitution of Lesotho repealed to allow Basotho to enjoy dual citizenship.

“We are also going to be working with friends of the TRC who are part of government, in this campaign for dual citizenship.

“Here we are talking about Home Affairs minister Lekhetho Rakuoane, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Kimetso Mathaba and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Moeketse Malebo,” said Mr Thamae.

The fact that Mr Rakuoane, whose Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) supports “free movement” between Lesotho and South Africa and dual citizenship for Basotho, was now in government, would help in the campaign, Mr Thamae added.

“In fact, we would be assisting Minister Rakuoane as he is rightly placed in the Ministry of Home Affairs, which deals with immigration issues,” he noted.

Mr Thamae further highlighted that the TRC wanted to ensure the issue of dual citizenship was one of the first Bills tabled before parliament “to ensure Basotho are spared the hardship of frequently being  deported from South Africa”.

Since South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Lesotho had missed many chances of changing the way the country relates to South Africa, according to Mr Thamae.

“We shouldn’t have been playing with chances that were meant to improve the lives of our people.

“Donors were also offering to give financial assistance to Lesotho in order to change the Lesotho-South Africa relationship.

“Another missed chance included the most recent one offered to Lesotho by President Thabo Mbeki’s administration when signing the Joint Bilateral Cooperation Commission (JBCC. If this had been taken advantage of, Lesotho would certainly have been upgraded from its current least-developed status.

“The JBCC was a huge economic arrangement intended to change the lives of our people, but like I said, we missed the opportunity to take advantage of it.”

Mr Thamae further said another “missed opportunity” was lack of direct policy relations with South Africa.

“We don’t have a foreign policy relationship with the free South Africa. The only advantages gained are those that benefit the elite. And I prophesize that our people will soon take matters into their own hands if nothing is done about this and we, as the TRC, are trying to avert such a scenario and take a leading role in changing the lives of Basotho for the better,” said Mr Thamae.

According to Mr Thamae, the TRC’s 2014 annual general meeting prioritised dual citizenship on its agenda, hence the push to ensure this comes to fruition.

“However, we delayed implementing the AGM’s resolution because of the political and security instability prevailing in Lesotho at the time.

“But we are now ready to take this up with the government, especially now that there is going to be a constitutional review. We would want to make sure that we don’t miss any more opportunities to change the lives of our people,” said Mr Thamae.

“Our major responsibility, as the TRC, is to rescue communities and should realise we have more than 400,000 Basotho living in South Africa due to high unemployment in our own country.

“These people are always faced with challenges of deportation time and again and being arrested for overstaying in South Africa—a situation we could have averted a long time ago when apartheid ended in that country.”

Mr Thamae further highlighted that the TRC was a civic organisation whose main responsibility was transforming the lives of people and would ensure Basotho know the advantages of having dual citizenship.

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