- Lesotho MP kicks off debate about laying reclaim to large parts of South Africa including the Free State province.
- The 1964 Cairo Declaration may prevent Lesotho from successfully taking back their land.
- South African spokesperson rubbishes Lesotho’s claims.
“It’s time for what is ours to be returned to us,” Lesotho MP Tshepo Lipholo told parliament about the motion to reclaim parts of South Africa. The landlocked southern African country has chimed up and begun the debate on Lesotho’s desire to reclaim large areas of South Africa, including its province, the Free State.
The man behind the proposal and leader of the Basotho Convention Movement (BCM), Mr Lipholo, believes that acquiring these land swathes will bring Lesotho prosperity. The small country is currently 30,000 sq km, and adding the reclaimed areas would increase it to approximately 240,000 sq km.
A notice presented in December 2022 states, “The Honourable House resolves, pursuant of Section 1(2) of the Constitution, to declare the whole of the Free State, parts of the Northern Cape, parts of the Eastern Cape, parts of Mpumalanga and parts of KwaZulu-Natal as comprising the territory of the Kingdom of Lesotho.”
“History has a record of what was taken from our people and that people were killed in the process. It is time to correct that,” he said, referring to the historical events such as the Mfecane and Nguni wars that forced Basotho to migrate away. However, many Basotho still live in South Africa, especially in the Free State, and Sesotho is recognised as one of South Africa’s 11 official languages.
The motion is based on a 1962 United Nations resolution that recognised the right to self-determination and independence for the people of Basutoland. However, to avoid conflict, the 1964 Cairo Declaration of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) required African leaders to accept the borders that existed upon independence.
Lesotho is heavily dependent on South Africa for most of its economic affairs. Historically, Lesotho (previously named Basutholand) was a British protectorate and then was annexed to the Cape Colony in 1871. However, before gaining complete independence in October 1966, the kingdom separated itself from the Cape as a crown colony in 1884.
While Lesotho can produce its power via the Meula hydro plant, the country still requires importing energy from South Africa to meet the demand. South Africa is also Lesotho’s leading supplier of liquid fuel. What many may not know is that Lesotho supplies South Africa with water. In 1986, the South African apartheid government and the government of Lesotho signed the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) treaty. This agreement stipulates that Lesotho supplies South Africa with water in exchange for royalty payments under the condition that Lesotho must use the fees to build dams that generate electricity.
South Africa has been down this road before, with Eswatini king Mswati III laying a similar claim that some areas of South Africa were part of his kingdom. However, this was never taken any further. Lesotho is much smaller than South Africa, with only two million citizens compared to Mzansi’s 60 million, which could be why the government hasn’t supported Lipholo’s motion.
Clayson Monyela, the Department of International Relations spokesperson in South Africa, rubbishes Lesotho’s claims. He said, “It’s a non-issue that doesn’t deserve any attention from anyone.” He further reiterated how the 1964 Cairo Declaration absolved South Africa.