by AKANI CHAUKE
PRETORIA, (CAJ News) – THE launch of the inaugural session of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) is hailed as a momentous and historic occasion to cement ties between Lesotho and South Africa.
Relations between the neighbours have somewhat faced some tests in recent years, with the issue of illegal mining and immigration.
Host President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Prime Minister Samuel Matekane, presided over the launch of the BNC in Pretoria, South Africa on Thursday.
The BNC elevates the Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation (JBCC), signed in 2021.
Matekane was elected in 2022.
His visit came at a time relations are deterred by the issue of illegal mining and subsequent violent crime in South Africa, for which some citizens from Lesotho are largely blamed.
This has triggered some xenophobic sentiment.
Ramaphosa welcomed the commitment of the government of Lesotho to cooperate with South Africa to deal with challenges of illegal mining in the country.
“Such activity carries a great social and economic cost for both our countries,” he said.
He also expressed sadness at the loss of the lives of illegal miners in Harmony Gold Mine in Welkom.
“Our respective governments are working with the mining company on the best methods and plan to retrieve the bodies of the miners without endangering the rescue personnel,” Ramaphosa said.
South Africa is meanwhile reliant on Lesotho for its water.
The second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project is welcomed as a vital development to enhance water security particularly in the Gauteng province of South Africa.
“South Africa is ready to cooperate with Lesotho to resolve any challenges that may arise in the implementation of the project,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa has previously led South Africa’s efforts to end political problems in Lesotho.
The two heads of state also discussed regional and international issues, expressing concern in the string of recent coups, particularly in Central and West Africa.
Matekane and Ramaphosa expressed solidarity with people in Western Sahara in their quest for self-determination.
They renewed support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for co-existence with the State of Israel.
– CAJ News