Lesotho MP claims huge chunks of South Africa: Lesotho’s parliament debated a motion to claim huge swaths of territory from its much larger neighbor, South Africa.
Lesotho MP claims huge chunks of South Africa
An opposition MP wants to declare the Free State and parts of four other provinces “Lesotho territory.
The people of Lesotho, called Basotho, lived in these areas until the 19th century, when they were seized by the Afrikaners – the white South Africans.
Many Basotho still live in South Africa, especially in the Free State.
The Sesotho language is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, spoken by about four million people in the country, as well as the two million inhabitants of Lesotho.
“It is time that what belongs to us was given back to us,” said Tshepo Lipholo, the member of parliament who initiated the motion, in the Lesotho parliament, speaking in Sesotho.
“History has a record of what was taken from our people and that people were killed in the process. It is time to correct that,” he said.
Parliament adjourned until Thursday, when the debate will continue.
In Mr. Liholo’s vision, Lesotho would grow from 30,000 square kilometers (11,600 square miles) to about 240,000 square kilometers (93,000 square miles).
He said that even though this was a decades-old problem, he thought it was important to address it today because the land would help bring prosperity to the people of Lesotho.
He is the leader of the Basotho Convention Movement, which campaigned on the issue in last year’s elections, winning a single seat, which he holds.
The landlocked kingdom of Lesotho is largely mountainous with limited agricultural space.
The former British protectorate is heavily dependent on the country that completely surrounds it: South Africa.
Over the decades, thousands of workers have been forced by the lack of employment opportunities at home to find work in the South African mines.
Conflictual joint history
The Lesotho government has not yet commented on the issue, but it is unlikely to upset its much larger neighbor by supporting it.
Liholo’s motion is based on a 1962 United Nations resolution that recognized the right to self-determination and independence of the people of Basutoland – as Lesotho was then known.
The view of South African officials is that the motion to claim territory that some Basotho consider to be theirs has no chance of success because it lacks majority support in Lesotho.
One of the main stumbling blocks is the 1964 Cairo Declaration of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, in which African leaders agreed to recognize the existing borders of their newly independent countries, even if they were drawn by colonial powers, to avoid fuelling conflict across the continent.
Mr. Liholo previously told the Lesotho media that he also hopes to have the motion discussed in the British Parliament “since it was the United Kingdom that gave Lesotho its independence in 1966, without correcting the borders seized by the Afrikaners.
This is not the first time Lesotho’s current borders have been discussed. In 2018, a civilian group known as the Free Basotho Movement wrote to the British Embassy in Lesotho asking the late Queen Elizabeth to remove the current border – essentially making Lesotho a 10th province of South Africa.
They said this would ensure the free movement of Basotho into South Africa and the benefits enjoyed by South African nationals. This case is ongoing.