Toast Remarks of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, in honour of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Phakalitha Mosisili: Cape Town, 19th June 2007.

Rt Honourable Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf the people and government of South Africa I would like to extend a warm welcome to you Your Excellency, and your entire delegation. Indeed, we are happy to say: welcome to your other home!

I say welcome to your other home, Prime Minister, because many of us in this room and indeed in the rest of our country also regard the Kingdom of Lesotho as our other home, because the unique, interwoven nature of our nationalities make us both Basotho and South Africans, giving real meaning to the saying that it is possible simultaneously to be local and exotic.

Today, we learnt of another expression which characterises our relations with Lesotho - that 'Lesotho is not only land-locked but is also South Africa-locked'. This therefore speaks to the constant interaction and strong relationship we should maintain with Lesotho.

I say welcome to your other home because both our peoples share the same history; we are descendants of the same ancestry, we sing the same songs and our praise-songs salute the same forebears.

Because of these family bonds, which could not be broken by the arbitrary dint of colonialism, many Basotho participated in the struggle against apartheid unflinchingly as this was also their struggle. Some paid the ultimate price while many more still carry the scars of that struggle.

Lesotho, as a country, also paid dearly for its principled stand on the side of our struggle for freedom, in the form of sanctions by the apartheid regime, as well as the craven Maseru massacre of 1982, in which Basotho nationals and the anti-apartheid operatives and their families were killed in cold blood by apartheid operatives.

On 13 December 1982, following the Maseru massacre, in a solemn message of solidarity with the people of Lesotho, as conveyed to then Lesotho Prime Minister Dr Leabua Jonathan, O.R. Tambo, the late President of the ANC said:

"We pledge our continued commitment to support the Kingdom of Lesotho with all means in our power in her struggle to consolidate her independence and defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Following the historic democratisation of 1994, South Africa has not reneged on this pledge.

Our countries signed a Joint Bilateral Commission for Cooperation in 2001, to foster a strategic partnership that would ensure mutual economic benefit, cooperation in the social, cultural, scientific, governance and peace and stability areas, as well as facilitate easier movement of our people across our borders.

Our central objective in this regard is to work together to ensure that the Kingdom of Lesotho evolves away from the status of a Least Developed Country towards a developed and prosperous future.

Since then, we have entered into Bilateral Agreements in various sectors. Three other Agreements have been signed today, while others are to be finalised, as they are still in the process of negotiations at this stage.

This serves as a clear demonstration of the progress we have made in establishing a firm base for the further deepening of our bilateral relations, representative of the warm feelings of friendship that our people share.

In this regard, we are collaborating on projects expressive these relations, such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), the Geo-chemical Mapping Project and the Hydrological Project. Further, I am confident that the two projects we discussed today, Your Excellency, that of the Sani Pass-Mokhotlong road, as part of the Maluti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Project, will help both our countries in terms of tourism promotion.

Again, Your Excellency, the Metolong Dam, which Lesotho is about to embark upon, is critical as it will provide Maseru and the low-lying areas with much needed water resources. Clearly, these are important projects which should bring about economic development, create employment and create new investment opportunities for our countries.

We are also happy that the Rail Link which will move from the Northern Cape, the Free State, Lesotho into KZN will provide the much needed access to the Durban Port and has been adopted as a SADC/Nepad project.

We however need to ensure full implementation of all these projects and agreements. In this regard, I am pleased that we have agreed on the specific steps we should take to accelerate the implementation of our agreements.

Rt Hon Prime Minister, the 2010 Soccer World Cup belongs to Basotho, to South Africans and to rest of our brothers and sisters across the African continent. Because geography has united both our countries, we should collaborate more to ensure that the Kingdom of Lesotho also benefits from this important tournament, especially in tourism and the hospitality industry, ensuring that even after the World Cup many of the visitors keep coming back for more of the breath-taking views of the emerald coloured mountains of Lesotho.

Since independence in 1966, the Kingdom of Lesotho has had many challenges. Yet, at every turn the resilience of Basotho has ensured that the country moves forward. Indeed, Prime Minister, we admire this tenacity of our sisters and brothers in Lesotho because it is the same strength that will help all of us to defeat poverty and underdevelopment.

I would also like to congratulate, you, Prime Minister, as well as all Basotho for the expert manner in which you hosted the SADC Heads of States Summit in 2006. I recall this meeting, Rt Hon Prime Minister, as well as the later Extraordinary Summit Meeting because of the important contribution they made towards the acceleration of our process of regional integration.

In this regard, Prime Minister, the Agreement signed today on the Facilitation of Cross Border Movement of Citizens is a significant part of this movement towards integration. We hope that the long queues that have characterised the border between our countries will be a thing of the past, as soon as the Agreement comes into operation.

I wish you well in your meeting with the business community during your visit and I would like to call upon the business people present here today, to support the people of Lesotho in their efforts to attract the much-needed investment. In this context I am happy to hear that negotiations on the MoU on Economic Cooperation and an Agreement on Mutual Protection of Investment have been concluded. We therefore expect relevant Ministers to ensure the speedy signing of these agreements. These agreements will help us in our efforts to attract private sector investment into Lesotho.

Once more, Rt Hon Prime Minister, a warm welcome to you and the delegation and many thanks for visiting us.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of the Rt Hon Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili, and to the everlasting and enduring friendship between the wonderful people of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the people of the Republic of South Africa. To friendship!

Thank you.

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