South Africa places great importance on its bilateral relations with its Southern African neighbour, the Kingdom of Lesotho.
This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa who was delivering the opening address of the Inaugural Session of the South Africa – Lesotho Bi-National Commission (BNC) held in Pretoria.
According to the Presidency, the BNC session follows an agreement signed by the two countries in November 2021 to elevate the structured bilateral mechanism from a Joint Bilateral Commission of Co-operation (JBCC) that is held at a ministerial level, to a BNC that is presided over by the two Heads of State and Government.
“Our relationship is anchored in historic bonds of language, culture and heritage. We recall with gratitude that the Kingdom of Lesotho provided shelter and support to South Africa’s liberation movements during the struggle against apartheid,” President Ramaphosa said.
On issues of the economy, the President highlighted that economic ties between the two countries have been fruitful for both nations.
He added that the elevation of the BNC from its previous iteration to one led by the two leaders is testament of the commitment to deepening economic relations.
“Economic relations between our two countries have grown over the years and continue to mutually benefit our respective peoples. South African businesses in Lesotho contribute to job creation while Lesotho’s water resources continue to benefit South Africa.
“It is important for the governments of both countries to work together to resolve challenges faced by businesses and put in place mechanisms to ensure that investments are protected. The elevation of the Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation between South Africa and Lesotho to a Bi-National Commission is a testament to the unwavering commitment by our two countries to further bolster our relations for mutual benefit,” President Ramaphosa said.
Water and energy resources
Touching on issues of water supply, the President emphasised the rising importance of the water cooperation through the jointly driven Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
“South Africa highly appreciates the cooperation on water resources between the two countries. In particular, we welcome Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project as a vital development to enhance water security in the Gauteng province and other parts of South Africa.
“The Lesotho Highlands Water Project also contributes to job creation in Lesotho and the construction of new roads, bringing access to previously inaccessible areas of Lesotho. South Africa is ready to cooperate with Lesotho to resolve any challenges that may arise in the implementation of the project,” he said.
President Ramaphosa urged greater cooperation between the two countries on the development of renewable energy.
“South Africa is keen to work with the Kingdom of Lesotho on the four proposed renewable energy projects. In the face of the worsening effects of climate change, we need to be making significant investments to ensure water and energy security for our peoples into the future.
“Our respective ministers should continue their engagements so that we can see progress on these proposed developments,” he said.
President Ramaphosa commended the Lesotho government on its “commitment…to cooperate with South Africa to deal with challenges of illegal mining in our country”.
“Such activity carries a great social and economic cost for both our countries. We were deeply saddened by the unfortunate loss of the lives of illegal miners in Harmony Gold Mine in Welkom.
“Our respective governments are working with the mining company on the best methods and plan to retrieve the bodies of the miners without endangering the rescue personnel,” President Ramaphosa said. - SAnews.gov.za