Zuma visits Lesotho for SACU talks

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Bereng Mpaki

A high-powered South African delegation led by President Jacob Zuma is expected in Maseru today to meet Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili over the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

Mr Zuma would be accompanied by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite NkoanaMashabane, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

According to the Prime Minister’s spokesperson Motumi Ralejoe, the one-day visit is part of Mr Zuma’s consultations as SACU Summit chairperson.

SACU consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, and the regional trade bloc maintains a common external tariff, shares customs revenues, and coordinates policies and decision-making on a wide range of trade issues. Mr Zuma has already been to Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia.

“I can confirm that President Jacob Zuma is expected to visit Lesotho tomorrow to meet Prime Minister Dr Pakalitha Mosisili on issues concerning SACU. He is scheduled to meet Dr Mosisili at 10:30am,” Mr Ralejoe yesterday told the Lesotho Times.

“You will recall that as chair of the SACU Summit, Mr Zuma has been to Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland, and is now coming to Lesotho,” Mr Ralejoe said.

He further said the consultations were a follow up on discussions held by the SACU Heads of State and Government during the inauguration of the new SACU Headquarters in Windhoek, Namibia last year.

Mr Ralejoe would not be drawn into disclosing specific issues to be discussed and other Lesotho officials Mr Zuma and his team are also set to meet.

“As of now, I am not aware of the nitty-gritties of their discussions but we will inform you as soon as we have such information.”

On her part, Finance Minister Dr ‘Mamphono Khaketla said Mr Zuma’s visit was “routine” for a SACU chairperson.

“SACU is an important institution for Lesotho as a significant portion of our national budget comes from this body. That is why it is important for us to protect it,” Dr Khaketla said.

“We have to safeguard it against the illegal importation of goods into the country, since by so doing, we are reducing the amount of collected revenue which is shared among member-states.”

Lesotho’s share of SACU revenue has been steadily declining over the past few years due to a slowdown in the performance of the global economy.

The 2016/2017 SACU revenue share is estimated to account for 32 percent of Lesotho’s budget—down from 42 percent in 2014/15.

Asked if the diminishing share of Lesotho’s SACU revenue would be discussed during the meeting, Dr Khaketla said: “Since he is coming specifically to meet the Prime Minister, I am not in a position to know what issues will be on the table other than the fact that this is a routine visit for President Zuma as the chairperson of the SACU Summit.

“These meetings are generally intended to determine whether SACU is still serving its mandate after all these years since its inception.”

Meanwhile, the South African presidency on Tuesday said discussions would be on progress member-states have made in implementing programmes adopted by the 2011 SACU Summit.

“The deliberations will also consider regional, continental and global economic and trade developments and their impact on SACU,” the presidency noted in a statement.

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