Opening Remarks by Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the Ministerial Meeting of the Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation (JBCC) between the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho, Maseru, 20 November 2020
My Dear Sister, Honourable Minister, Matšepo Molise-Ramakoae,
Senior Officials from our respective Governments,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Honourable Minister Molise-Ramakoae and Co-Chair, thank you sincerely for your warm words of welcome. I wish to express our heartfelt appreciation for the hospitality extended to my delegation.
Let me take this opportunity to pay my respect, on behalf of President Ramaphosa, to His Majesty the King Letsie III as well as to The Right Honourable, Prime Minister Majoro.
We have agreed to convene this Council of Ministers of the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation (JBCC) amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to the urgency of the issues of mutual interest we need to consider.
Further, the Council of Ministers Meeting has been long overdue. It has been almost seven (07) years since we met in Pretoria in 2013. They are lessons to take from this because some of the challenges could just compound over time. This calls for increased frequency of our political and diplomatic consultations at different levels.
Of course, our sectoral committees continued to meet and at times referred some of the matters for our attention and consideration by Heads of State and Government. It is therefore not doom and gloom, but we can do more.
This was precisely the consideration given by President Ramaphosa and The Right Honourable Majoro during the Prime Minister’s visit to South Africa in June 2020. The instruction was therefore clear that we should urgently convene and rejuvenate the JBCC.
I wish to command our Senior Officials for their detailed work on 03 and 04 November 2020, in Pretoria and in the past two days here in Maseru.
They have made bold proposals which will nurture our historic and fraternal relations and give impetus to the implementation of the joint programmes within the areas of cooperation. This includes the elevation of the JBCC to the level of Heads of State and Government level and the resultant amendment to identified JBCC Agreement provisions.
This will consequently elevate the decision making processes and strengthen accountability while enhancing the implementation of all Agreements that have been signed between our two countries. In this regard, I am pleased to note that more than thirty –four (34) Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) in various fields have been signed between our two countries.
Furthermore, I am satisfied to learn that several Agreements and MoUs between our departments are currently at various stages of completion and will soon be signed and implemented accordingly.
Our Senior Officials have also, through their report, asked us to pay special attention to urgent issues such as cross border movement of goods and services as well as the smooth transfer of school-going children across our borders. I am aware that some of these issues have already been discussed in detail by Ministers during the one on one interactions and others are yet to receive such attention during our stay in Maseru.
Our resolve is to change the lives of our people for better. We want to see our youth educated, trained and developed to become entrepreneurs and not job seekers. We aspire to bring women in both our countries into the mainstream economy and play an improved role in bolstering economic growth and contribute to sustained prosperity.
In order to achieve this, we must engage more effectively and continue to embark on cooperation projects in the fields of agriculture, mining, infrastructure development, defence and security, economy and finance, trade and investments as well as social and humanitarian affairs, so as to raise our bilateral relations to newer heights. Together, I strongly believe that our joint efforts will be rewarded by bringing forth economic transformation in our two countries which will translate into better lives for all.
In essence, the platform created by our structured mechanism enables us to not only reflect on our bilateral cooperation programmes but also to discuss regional, continental and global issues of mutual interests. The political and diplomatic consultations I referred to earlier become more imperative to formulate common positions.
It is only by working together that we can bring forth the change we want. I look forward to our fruitful deliberations and the report prepared by our Senior Officials.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road