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DC govt will engage SA for a corridor to the sea: Mokhothu

Bongiwe Zihlangu | ‘Marafaele Mohloboli

UPON winning power, one of the first tasks of a Democratic Congress (DC) government will be to engage South Africa for the return of its conquered territories to enable landlocked Lesotho to have much-needed access to the sea, DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu has said.

Access to the sea will reduce Lesotho’s economic dependence on South Africa and enable it to establish its own independent trade with the rest of the world, the deputy prime minister added.

Mr Mokhothu made the remarks while addressing thousands of DC supporters who thronged Thetsane, Maseru for the launch of the party’s election manifesto early this week.

The DC supporters, drawn from Maseru’s 10 urban constituencies, braved the freezing conditions to fill up the huge open space next to the Puma Garage in Thetsane.

Incidentally, Thetsane is a stronghold of the main governing All Basotho Convention (ABC). Mr Mokhothu’s principal in government, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, is the incumbent legislator for the constituency. But it remains to be seen if he will seek re-election in the area after his bitter fallout with the ABC’s national executive committee (ABC) which unsuccessfully attempted to recall him from the premiership and have him replaced by former cabinet minister, Nkaku Kabi. Mr Kabi subsequently defeated Dr Majoro in the January 2022 election to replace former leader, Thomas Thabane.

Mr Mokhothu and Dr Majoro have worked well in the governing coalition and the DC has opposed all attempts to oust the premier.

But all friendly relations will tossed aside when the DC and ABC lock horns with each other and other political parties in the eagerly awaited elections due in October this year.

Mr Mokhothu has made no bones about his desire to get one over Dr Majoro and the ABC and land the coveted post of premier.

Should this be achieved, he will not waste any time in beginning negotiations with neighbouring South Africa for an outlet to the sea.

After all, parts of what is now the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State were seized from Lesotho’s founding King Moshoeshoe I by the Afrikaners in the 19th century wars, Mr Mokhothu argues.

DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu pulled a bumper crowd when he held a rally at Ha-Thetsane, Maseru on 8 May 2022. Here are some of the scenes from the rally. Pics by Silence Charumbira

Hence Lesotho would be justified in seeking to regain some territories to enable it to have access to the sea, he argues.

“After we win the elections in October, we will engage the government of South Africa to provide us with a land corridor to the sea,” Mr Mokhothu said to loud cheers from the crowd.

“We must engage in serious conversations with South Africa which stripped us of our land during Afrikaner rule. We need to negotiate with them to give us a land corridor to the sea where we can erect a port for trading our goods.

“It is undesirable that we are at the mercy of South Africa as all our goods must pass through that country to reach overseas destinations. But with a land strip we won’t have to rely on them, we will be able to trade directly with many countries across the world.”

Mr Mokhothu said now that South Africa was contemplating land appropriation without compensation to redress historical imbalances among its people, Lesotho should also be strategising on how best it should be compensated “for the land that is today called the Free State, which they seized from us”.

“Successive congress governments tried to secure a corridor to the sea without much success. But I swear by my father (founding DC leader and former Prime Minister) Pakalitha Mosisili’s name that we will get that land when the DC wins power. We need our own port through which we can directly trade with the world,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Mr Mosisili attended the rally along with deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa, and legislators and other members of the party’s national executive committee.

Vendors also formed part of the huge crowd. Directly addressing them, Mr Mokhothu said despite the barrage of attacks and criticism by his detractors for his unwavering support for vendors, he would continue supporting them to ensure they grow their businesses and contribute significantly to the economy.

“The DC is committed to supporting your businesses. We will walk the journey with Lesotho’s street vendors and ensure that the environment in which they operate is safe and clean with proper sanitation. We intend to train and equip them with business skills for the better management of their businesses.

“Credit facilities will be availed to street vendors. We will stick with you regardless of the criticism and barrage of attacks we are getting from our political detractors for prioritising you. They mock us for buying your merchandise but it doesn’t matter what they say. It is what we are doing and intend to do for a long time.

“Vendors are also voters. I therefore urge them to vote for DC. We have supported you when no other party looked your way. With your support, we will emerge victorious and after winning elections, I will still come to support you by buying your merchandise. We are driven by the desire to see your businesses grow,” Mr Mokhothu said.

The DC leader has been supporting street vendors and small businesses by buying their merchandise to donate to destitute families. Even before joining the governing coalition, the DC was injecting capital into various projects owned by vendors.

Last week, Mr Mokhothu convened vendors at the Pitso Ground, Maseru where they were given stock to replenish their businesses. They were also given DC regalia such as caps, blankets and t-shirts.

At the rally, Mr Mokhothu also promised to reduce eligibility for old-age pensions from the current 70 years to 65. He pledged to ensure that factory workers took home at least M50 000 each upon retirement.

“We will re-open factories that closed during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as open new ones to create much-needed jobs for our people. A DC government will also build clinics closer to factories to allow workers to seek health services near their workplaces.

“These factories that you see across the country were built by the congress governments. We will continue to support the textile industry and ensure that Basotho also own shares in factories and participate directly in their administration,” Mr Mokhothu said.