THE British government says it is committed to increasing cooperation with Lesotho in various social and economic spheres to strengthen bilateral relations.
The pledge was made by British High Commissioner to South Africa and Lesotho, Dame Judith Macgregor, this week during her visit to the Mountain Kingdom.
High Commissioner Macgregor, who is based in Pretoria, was in the country to congratulate Lesotho on its 50th Independence anniversary and hand over a full-size replica of a Spitfire plane in gratitude for the assistance the Mountain Kingdom rendered the former colonizer during World War II.
However, the handover was postponed to today because King Letsie III was attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties 22 in Marrakech, Morocco.
High Commissioner Macgregor said British officials visited Lesotho regularly to consolidate relations between the two countries.
“We visit regularly to meet with King Letsie III and members of the government to raise awareness on the operations of British non-governmental organisations and various business interests in Lesotho,” she said.
Various educational opportunities, the envoy said, were available for Basotho to exploit, including Chevening and Commonwealth scholarships. Chevening is a UK government-funded scholarship programme aimed at developing future leaders. The scheme draws students from over 160 countries.
“In 2016, six impressive Basotho young people are being funded by our Chevening Programme to undertake one-year post-graduate courses in the UK,” said High Commissioner Macgregor.
“This year’s Basotho scholars join the six from Lesotho in 2015 who have benefited from Chevening networks, experienced UK culture, and built lasting and positive relationships with the UK, and most importantly they have come back to work and contribute to the prosperity of Lesotho through their Chevening experience,” she said.
“Added to that, in 2016 a young Basotho woman, Maletšabisa Molapo, was selected as a Queen’s Young Leader in 2016. Maletšabisa led the team that founded the ‘Her Chance to be’ foundation, an organization committed to improving the lives of women and girls in Lesotho.”
The high commissioner also indicated that the British government supported the work of British charities and organisations in Lesotho.
Some of the charities include Sentebale which was founded in 2006 by Prince Henry of Wales and Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso to assist the country’s needy children, Kick4Life, Dolen Cymru, the Durham-Lesotho Link and Skillshare International.
High Commissioner Macgregor also revealed the UK government contributed M97 million to the humanitarian drought response through the United Nations (UN) earlier this year.
“Our Department for International Development (DFID) will provide clean drinking water to over 50 000 villagers, hospital patients and students,” she said.
“Ahead of the upcoming planting season, DFID’s partners are currently providing seeds for staple foods and vegetables to close to 100 000 people, and at the peak of the hungry season, cash-transfers for buying food will be provided to 50 000 people.”
The envoy said the DFID also supported regional programmes that benefit Lesotho, including an integrated approach across the region on climate change and health.
“DFID’s ‘Tuberculosis (TB) in the Mines Initiative’, for example, is ensuring access to health care and social protection benefits for Lesotho miners and their dependents working in South Africa.
“We also support the Voluntary Services Overseas and the Overseas Development Institute, both of which provide professionals and practitioners to increase technical capacity in the public and voluntary sectors. And we contribute of course to development projects run by international organisations such as the UN, World Bank and EU.”
On the business front, High Commissioner Macgregor said the UK government was committed to promoting British investment and bilateral trade with Lesotho.
“Our trade relations are valued at approximately M160 million per annum. Within the diamond mining industry, key investors are the British-registered businesses, Letšeng Diamonds and Firestone Diamonds,” she said.
“Our regional Department for International Trade office and the Southern African-British Chamber of Commerce in Johannesburg are both keen and available to help facilitate further commercial links between the UK and the Kingdom of Lesotho.”