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Lesotho job-seekers stranded in SA

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lejone Mpotjoane, has confirmed a distressing situation faced by Basotho living in South Africa, as their shelters were reduced to ashes, leaving them in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

Mpotjoane stated that the ministry was collaborating with independent organisations and the South African government to extend assistance to the affected Basotho.

However, he explained, the sheer scale of the crisis poses a challenge to mount a rapid response.

“Due to the high numbers of people affected, it becomes a challenge for us to respond within a short time but preparations for helping them are being made,” Mpotjoane asserted.

Lesotho, entirely surrounded by South Africa, is home to an estimated 2.2 million people. Annually, hundreds of Basotho migrate to South Africa in search of employment opportunities.

The history of labour migration from Lesotho to South Africa dates back to the nineteenth century when Basotho sought employment on farms and in towns in the Orange Free State and the Cape Colony.

Others were engaged as individual wage labourers in diamond mines, railway lines, and towns.

During a recent media briefing, the Chairman and President of the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS), Harry Nkhetše, disclosed the tragic incidents that occurred in Pretoria, Rustenburg, and the Western Cape last month, where shelters belonging to Basotho were set ablaze, rendering many in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Nkhetše emphasised the urgency of the situation, stating: “While Basotho were left vulnerable, LRCS was working tirelessly with the office of the High Commissioner of Lesotho in South Africa and the South Africa Red Cross Society (SARCS) to immediately arrest the situation in order to find a temporary solution for Basotho who are in distress.”

He further detailed the immediate actions taken.

“We gave clothes to Basotho whose houses have been burned while SARCS provided food and temporary shelter. After receiving the assessment report, we are planning to assist with food parcels until those people can find comfort,” he explained.

According to Nkhetše, with the assistance of SARCS, investigations were underway to determine the extent of the impact and identify those in need.

Sechaba Mokhameleli, the acting secretary general of the LRCS, provided harrowing statistics, revealing that in Pretoria, at least three individuals lost their lives, two of whom were Basotho.

Among the affected, over 1,000 people were impacted, with more than 500 being Basotho as per the latest communication with the Lesotho Embassy in South Africa, Mokhameleli said.

“In Rustenburg, there are more than 500 affected people including adults and children. Some of the children are reported to have been forced to quit school because they no longer have homes. Most of them stay in shacks in the areas around mines,” he added.

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