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JBCC revival hope for border woes

By Thuso Mosabala

Plans are ahead for a Lesotho-South Africa development agreement to be revived in an effort to uplift Lesotho from least developed country status and also lessen perennial immigration problems experienced at the countries borders.

Speaking at a 24th celebration of Freedom Day attended by Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Halebonoe Setšabi and many other high ranking government officials and members of country’s diplomatic missions, South African High Commissioner Sello Moloto said these bilateral development agreement dubbed Joint Bilateral Commission for Cooperation (JBCC) has potential to deal with the immigration woes between the two countries.

The JBCC was first signed in 2001 during an official visit by President Thabo Mbeki to Lesotho with the aim of strengthening relations between the two states.

The JBCC includes areas for possible cooperation between the two countries under which the desired results that can be achieved are listed in the JBCC as:  mutual economic integration; political, social, cultural, humanitarian cooperation; science and technology; good governance, peace and security; and facilitating the movement of persons, goods and services.

Some of the projects that have already being implemented under the JBCC in the past include the promotion of tourism and sustaining water resources.

These projects included the construction of the bitumen Sani Top-Mokhotlong Road and the Metolong Dam that provides water for Maseru city, Berea, Roma, Mazenod, Morija and Matsieng.

Moloto, addressing guests attending this high profile celebration at High Commission premises in Maseru, said the two countries’ cooperation dates far back into days of apartheid when Basotho used to provide a safe-haven for South African liberation fighters.

He however acknowledged that although for the past two years they have been battling to revive the JBCC, whose meetings were last held in April 2013, the two governments “have now reached a stage where this important milestone of the revival of the JBCC has been endorsed at the highest level of the two governments.”

“We are expecting the first meeting of senior officials at Director-General/Principal Secretary level to convene in less than three months from now.

“The Lesotho government will host this first important meeting,” he added.

Concerned about the problems and challenges of immigration, Moloto said JBCC is “the most appropriate platform which will be dealing with the perennial problems and challenges of immigration which are being experienced at the borders, especially Maseru and Maputsoe border posts.”

Moloto added “the forum will equally be engaging on the constant challenges of cross-border crimes, especially those involving vehicle and stock theft.

“We are expecting the bigger forum which involves the political principals to be sitting before the end of this year.”

On behalf of the government of Lesotho, Deputy Minister Setšabi said government of Lesotho is looking forward to hosting “Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation Meeting – the earliest within this year 2018 – to further economic cooperation and cement the brotherly and sisterly relations that so happily exist between the two countries and peoples.”

Setšabi further expressed that there was a need to “resolve jointly and in unison lodge the fight against modern-day challenges of poverty and unemployment, illness and diseases, drought and climate related challenges in the region.”

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