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A harvest of thorns



Last Sunday Lesotho celebrated 54 years of regaining independence from Britain. It is important to underline the word “regain” because Lesotho was once an independent country until 1870 when King Moshoeshoe I sought protection from Britain. The same sentiments were echoed by Queen Elizabeth II on 4th October 1966 when she said, “I congratulate Lesotho on this day when she regains her independence”. The lingering question is whether this was the kind of independence our elders had envisioned for us! In her petition to England about water affairs which was rejected by one Chaplin who was Governor of the Union of South Africa, Regent Mants’ebo Seeiso highlighted that there had to be three pipes. The bottom for Lesotho water supply, in the middle for irrigation and the one on top for South Africa’s water supply. Chief Leabua Jonathan who was now the Regent’s adviser on the eve of independence noted that Lesotho needed not only to be politically independent, but also economically independent. This is evidenced by his reluctance to sign the water treaty upon assumption of premiership unless it was in line with the terms highlighted in the Regent’s petition. Secondly, he made it clear in unshakable terms that whoever comes to invest in Lesotho’s mines should hold 49 percent shares with Lesotho holding 51 percent or else those would be reserved for next Basotho generation which would have the capability to extract for themselves. Thirdly, he pursued in various forums of the United Nations, Commonwealth and Organization of African Unity the issue of restoring to Basotho those lands that legitimately belong to them as a matter of right but were annexed by use of force from the reign of Chief Moshoeshoe I in the 1850s. This he did in line with Article 5 of a resolution by the UN General Assembly which states that: “The United Nations General Assembly urges the United Kingdom Government to take immediate steps to the indigenous inhabitants all the land taken from them, whatever the form or pretext for such alienation”. Lastly, the issue of wool and mohair was administered by Basotho. The shearing shacks were built across the country and wool and mohair was transported directly to the port. The farmers would later get the first cheque and second cheques. It is disheartening that today Lesotho suffers from lack of water supply needed for all purposes. She doesn’t maximise the receipts from supply of water to the Republic of South Africa. Today the mines are in the control of foreign investors, with the country holding most minimum share. Our land is still in the hands of foreigners who are day-by-day seeking to oppress us. Maybe as we celebrate 54 years of independence, our leaders should reflect on the appropriate kind of independence our country deserves! Bohlokoa John Lentša

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