Give back the land, Basotho ask Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth II listens to a speech during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Queen Elizabeth II listens to a speech during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

A group from Lesotho has sent a petition to Queen Elizabeth II to facilitate the return of land that was taken from them in 1854.

A group from Lesotho calling itself the ‘Basotho Petitioners’ has petitioned the Queen Elizabeth II to facilitate their return to land in South Africa, which they say is “rightfully” theirs, News24 has reported.

Mpho Serobanyane, the coordinator of the group, said the petition was handed over to the British Embassy in Pretoria last Tuesday.

“The petition is all about the readjustment request for Lesotho boundaries. That is all we are requesting for her majesty Queen Elizabeth to do for the Basotho,” said Serobanyane.

According to the group, the British monarchy authorised the land distribution in 1854 during the Orange River convention, which is also known as the Bloemfontein convention.

The convention was one where the British formally recognised the independence of ‘the Boers’ in the area between the Orange and Vaal rivers, leading to the formation of the Boer Republic of the Orange Free State, which was independent at the time.

“What we know is that the petition will be handed over to their high commissioner, who will take it to Queen Elizabeth,” Serobanyane said.

He added if they did not receive any response, they would engage with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.

The group has also requested to personally present the petition to the queen, to explain their documentation to her.

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“If [she] finds that our petition is not applicable, we therefore have everything documented that will guide and give light as to what our intentions are, and how we are going to deal with the readjustments of the boundaries,” he added.

Serobanyane said land that historically belonged to them was in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

“In KwaZulu-Natal, there was a part of the land which in Sesotho, was called ‘Ha/Kobo’… According to the map done in 1910, in Free State you will see that our boundary goes as far as Botswana,” he said.

Serabonyane said they had received support from people in Lesotho when they posted details of the petition on social media.

The group believes only Queen Elizabeth II has the power to undo colonial borders.

Serobanyane explained the group had not engaged with the governments of Lesotho and South Africa because they did not want to make the matter a “political” issue, as it would divide the Basotho.

“This is an issue of the nation at large, the person we think should engage with the South African government should be Queen Elizabeth, because we have directed our petition to her since it was the Britain Monarchy that in 1854 gave South Africa right over our boundaries,” he said.

“It is up to the queen and the commonwealth to engage with SA regarding our petition. We have also given a copy of our petition to the UN and the European Union as well.”

British High Commission spokesperson Isabel Potgieter confirmed it had received the petition.

However, she said the issues of boundaries were not for the British government.

“Issues around territorial borders are for the governments of Lesotho and South Africa. However, the petition has been passed to London, where it has been noted,” Potgieter said.

The queen has not yet responded to the petition.

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