STATEMENT BY HER EXCELLENCY MRS ‘MATLOTLISO LINEO KHECHANE-NTOANE AT THE OCCASION OF 44TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSRY OF THE KINGDOM OF LESOTHO IN PRETORIA ON 08TH OCTOBER 2010
Mr. Mxolisi Nkosi representing the Government of the Republic of South Africa;
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, your Excellency Dr. Abdalar Alzubedi
Your Excellencies members of the Diplomatic corps and International organizations;
Friends of Lesotho;
Distinguished invited guests
Ladies and gentlemen.
The 4th of October signifies a historic moment when power was handed over to Basotho manage their affairs. For this we pay tribute to King Moshoeshoe the Great, founder of Basotho Nation who was a visionary leader, a skilled warrior which, combined with charisma and Diplomacy preserved our nationhood, and hence the present day Lesotho. Since Independence Lesotho has been participating actively in Global Agenda to remove shackles of oppression in other Countries of the world including South Africa, our only immediate neighbour.
Since 1994, Lesotho-South Africa relations have grown from Strength to Strength. We share a common destiny. As we are intertwined due to our unique geographic situation, affinity and inter-dependent economies, we regard with pride, our Diplomatic relations with our only immediate neighbour and partner of South Africa. Exchange of high level visits between our two countries have been taking place. These culminated into the signing of a joint bilateral Commission of Cooperation in 2001.
Milestones that have been achieved through the joint efforts of the two countries include:
- Successful implementation of the world renowned Lesotho Highlands Water project that transfers pristine water to the Gauteng Province of South Africa and has improved the standard of living of the people around the project area and the population at large through the infrastructural development and the community empowerment in Lesotho;
- Successful conclusion of negotiations on the second phase of the Highlands Water Project, the signing of which is expected to take place by the end of the year;
- Funding by South Africa of a road improvement project from Sani top to Mokhotlong;
- Contribution by the South Africa to funding of the Metolong Lowlands Water Project for transfer and supply of water to the Lowlands of Lesotho for both commercial and household consumption;
- Effective joint cross-border crime prevention operations;
- Successful Joint Frontier conservation project of the flora and fauna.
The recent State Visit of His Excellency President Jacob Zuma to Lesotho from 12th to 13th August 2010, was the highlight of the strong relations that subsist between our two countries. The two countries agreed to widen and deepen further these relations. To this end, the following were signed during the state visit; firstly the Memorandum of Understanding in the Legal Field. Secondly, the Memorandum of Understanding on Economic Cooperation. Thirdly a Declaration of Intent for the Phase II of them Lesotho Highlands Water Project. And finally a grant of R60 000000(Sixty Million Rands) as contribution by South Africa for Metolong Lowlands Water Supply in Lesotho.
Economic growth and Stability of Lesotho means less dependence on South Africa on South Africa and therefore of mutual benefit to the two countries. The role of the private sector fraternities on both sides cannot be overemphasised.
Free movement of persons, goods and services between our borders, is of great importance to us as Lesotho, we recognise current challenges but we are also encouraged by the ongoing engagements to achieve cross-border facilitation while recognising security imperatives.
As we celebrate the 44th Independence anniversary, we recap strides that we have made as a nation as part of the global community. Our growth and development strategy is based on our 2020 statement provides, thus:
“Lesotho shall be a stable democracy, a united and prosperous nation at peace with itself and its neighbours. It shall have a healthy and well developed human resources bases. Its economy will be strong; its environment well managed and its technology well established”
To achieve the intended growth and development and the state of harmony, as a espoused in our vision, Government ah d adopted progressive policies in various sectors for poverty reduction, economic growth, employment creation, national security and stability.
Since 1913 when Lesotho returned to democratic dispensation, we have been holding regular elections, the next national assembly elections are to be held in 2012. The second local Government elections are planned to take place in 2011. Significant progress has been made towards gender parity with women holding more strategic positions than before, in the judiciary, executive and legislature. In preparation for the 2012 National Assembly elections, preparations are under way to amend the electoral law in view of the post 2007 election challenges. Massive infra-structural developments for roads, bridges, telecommunications, electricity and water supply, as well as health and education facilities, is taking place across the country.
Government has continued to support the first cohort of free primary education pupils that started with the introduction of free primary education policy in 2000, they are now at the fourth of the five year high school education. On recognising that despite a free primary education policy, 15% of children aged between six and twelve were still out of school, an act of parliament was promulgated to make primary education not only free but compulsory as well. Orphans and vulnerable children are supported through high school through a bursary scheme; universal access to text books is achieved through rental subsidies, school feeding scheme which also provides employment for predominantly rural women ensures proper nutrition required for proper function of brains of the learners.
On health, to make this basic need accessible to the population, free primary health care at all health clinics is in place and a flat rate of 15 Maloti across all hospitals including those privately owned by Christian health association applies. The scourge of HIV and AIDS is being effectively managed with His Majesty and the Right Honourable the Prime Minister leading the campaign. New infections have reduced by about 5 percent. The stigma of having the disease has been effectively killed with many people living openly with HIV and AIDS and also playing a crucial role in its prevention.
To harness the most critical natural resource water, and to promote its access to the people, a water transmission programme for urban, semi-urban and rural areas of the country is under way. This includes improved sanitation and restoration of wetlands which are critical for preservation of life for generations to come. We also take seriously our responsibility for being the source of water for some of our southern African neighbours.
In order to be competitive and investor –friendly, a number of measures have been adopted. A one stop shop was established for ease of business registration, licencing and advisory services. Tax and licencing services operate under one roof. Land policy has been reviewed to amongst others are protect investment. A commercial court is now operational and electronic case management system introduced for efficient and effective delivery of justice. Processes leading to the production of National identity cards are underway.
The service industry such as tourism is growing steady with great investment opportunity.
The need for diversification of our industry from heavy reliance on garment manufacturing and the need to focus on adding value to our export commodities for hire return on investment and increased employment opportunities, means huge investment opportunities in our economy to first of all to harness the existing natural resources such as diamond, sandstone, wool And more hare, wind, solar, water and the natural scenic beauty of our country.
Before I conclude, I wish to officially launch the Mission`s website which has been active for a few months now. The address is www.lesothopretoria.com . The site provides History, Culture. Trade, Politics and everything about Lesotho and Basotho. Please do visit the site to gain more insight about the Kingdom in the Sky.
Finally I wish to congratulate Government and the people of South Africa for hosting the FIFA World cup to a resounding success, we are proud as a neighbour and as Africans that the masses of our citizens got a rare opportunity to witness the tournament on the African soil After more that a century of its existence.
Please raise your glasses and join me as i propose a toast. To the good health of President Zuma and prosperity and solidarity of the two nations. To solidarity!!!
I thank you for listening.