Lesotho, SA delegations meet to discuss border closures in wake of Covid-19 pandemic

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi briefs media on department of Home Affairs services under lockdown alert level 2, 28 August 2020. Picture: GCIS

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said it was important to be cognizant that opening up the borders between the two nations could create problems for Lesotho.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said that a team made up of South African officials and their counterparts in Lesotho has been established to look into related issues and how to address these in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant closure of borders.

During a briefing on Friday outlining the services the department of home affairs will resume under Alert Level 2 of the lockdown, Motsoaledi said on Wednesday he was part of a delegation led by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Naledi Pandor, who met with Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu to discuss the mountain kingdom’s request to open up the borders between the two nations.

Motsoaledi said the South African delegation included Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula and the Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo, while Mokhothu was accompanied by his delegation of ministers, which included the ministers of home affairs, health, defence and state security.

Motsoaledi said it was agreed that teams would be put up on both sides of the countries which would look into the related issues into the opening of the borders.

He said one of the issues the Lesotho delegation raised was that some learners from their nation attend school in South Africa and have to cross the border two times a day, to and back from school, an occurrence the South African minister said he has witnessed himself at the Maseru border “long before Covid-19”.

The department of home affairs has opened a special lane for these learners, which means they neither have to queue nor produce a passport at the border, just a special permit, Mostoaledi said.

“That is what we have done for learners at Maseru,” he added.

Despite South Africa having a unique relationship with Lesotho and other neighbouring countries such as Eswatini, among others, Motsoaledi said it was important to be cognizant to the reality that Covid-19 does not have a unique relationship with any persons and does not discriminate and so the opening of borders should be thought of in that context.

“So we must see how we work within the issue of Covid-19,” Motsoaledi said, adding that the teams that have been established will at a later stage report back on their findings and that he and his counterpart in Lesotho will in due course have a virtual meeting to discuss how these issues could be dealt with.

Motsoaledi said it was pointed out to the Lesotho delegation that since South Africa is the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, opening up the borders between the two nations could create problems for the mountain kingdom and that it would not be inconceivable that the number of Covid-19 positive cases in the latter nation could increase “in a way that is unimaginable”.

The talks between the two nations come after two South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members and two South African border officials were recently arrested in Lesotho for going into the country without passports.

About a month ago, two soldiers from Lesotho were caught coming into South Africa while pursuing suspected livestock thieves.

Motsoaledi said he had met with his Mozambican counterpart to discuss issues around the closure of borders, movement and how to deal with these.

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