19 May 2018

Lesotho: Basotho Call for Dual Citizenship, Union With SA

Photo: arclient/Wikimedia Commons
The border between South Africa and Lesotho at Sani Pass (file photo).

THE majority of Basotho want Lesotho to establish a union with South Africa, a leading research institute has found.

At least 52 percent of Basotho favour unification with South Africa while 80 percent say they would consider migrating to South Africa.

There are also growing calls for the legalisation of dual citizenship with revelations that 77 percent of Basotho favour dual citizenship with South Africa and 72 percent favour dual citizenship with any other country.

These and other findings are contained in the latest survey report produced and released this week by the internationally-acclaimed Afrobarometer research institute.

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in Africa.

Drawing on articles in the Lesotho Times and its sister Sunday Express publication, Afrobarometer states that "noting that Lesotho is losing social and economic benefits by not allowing dual citizenship, the government has submitted to parliament a bill to amend the constitution to allow for dual citizenship".

"The World Bank (2017) estimates that remittance inflows to Lesotho have dropped from a high of US$647 million in 2011 to $367 million in 2017, including $331 million from South Africa.

"As Lesotho embarks on a highly anticipated multi-sectoral reform process called for by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in an attempt to bring lasting peace and stability, dual citizenship counts among constitutional issues that will be debated.

"Results of a new Afrobarometer survey show strong - and increasing - public support for legalising dual citizenship with South Africa, as well as a clear preference for legalising dual citizenship in general," Afrobarometer further states.

The research network said the growth in the numbers of Basotho demanding the legalising of dual citizenship with South Africa reflects a huge increase from 48 percent who were in favour in 2014.

It also found that 52 percent of Basotho say Lesotho can only realise meaningful development if it becomes part of South Africa and this figure reflects an increase from just 40 percent who were in favour in 2014.

Afrobarometer notes that the main reasons why Basotho want dual citizenship and even union with South Africa are economic as South Africa, which is Lesotho's only neighbour, is arguably Africa's leading economy.

Lesotho has a population of 2, 1 million people and the country faces challenges of high unemployment and grinding poverty.

An estimated 400 000 Basotho are believed to legally and illegally residing in South Africa. South Africa has even found it necessary to issue the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) which allows qualifying Basotho to legally reside, work and study in South Africa for a period of four years.

"Support for legalising dual citizenship with South Africa is strong across all major socio-demographic groups. It is particularly strong among rural residents (86 percent) and younger respondents (83 percent of those aged 26-35).

"Agreement with the idea that Lesotho can only realise meaningful development if it becomes part of South Africa has also increased but remains lower than support for dual citizenship. A slim majority (52 percent) of Basotho "agree" or "strongly agree" that their country needs to unite with South Africa, up from 40% in 2014," Afrobarometer states.

So serious are Lesotho's economic challenges that 57 percent of the respondents consider unemployment to be the major national problem which the government should address.

This is followed by complaints about poor infrastructure (42 percent), electricity challenges (30 percent) and issues of inadequate water supply (29 percent).

"While looking to the government for action on job creation, many Basotho also look elsewhere for employment opportunities. One obvious option is the economic powerhouse next door (South Africa), which many Basotho see as a model for development.

"Basotho also feel that South Africa is the country with the greatest influence in Lesotho (35 percent). China is a close second (30 percent), followed by the United States (9 percent).

Lesotho was also found to have the highest number of people who have moved to live in other countries for a period of three or more months.

Lesotho (44 percent) pipped Zimbabwe (43 percent) of people who moved to other countries in 2017.

The other countries on the list are Malawi (24 percent), Botswana (19 percent), Namibia (16 percent), Mauritius (15 percent) and Zambia (11 percent).

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