False start to 90-day visa deal with SA



MASERU – The much-anticipated 90-day visa agreement between Lesotho and neighbouring South Africa (SA) has not yet been implemented, despite previous announcements. Last month, the ministry responsible issued widespread notifications suggesting that the Home Affairs Ministers of the two countries had signed the visa agreement. However, this promise has proven elusive.

Home Affairs Minister Lebona Lephema recently informed the government that the agreement is not in effect as South African border officials are still awaiting directives from their minister, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi. Additionally, opposition member Machesetsa Mofomobe revealed during a radio interview that a personal encounter at the border prompted him to question the minister about the status of the 90-day visa-free agreement.

The minister confirmed that no such agreement is currently in place. Mofomobe emphasised the importance of not announcing policies prematurely, noting the significant impact on citizens’ expectations and plans. The delay in implementing this visa agreement is particularly disappointing for many in Lesotho.

The arrangement would have allowed them to spend more time in SA, potentially earning income for their families. With passports already a significant challenge in Lesotho, the lack of a visa-free period means longer waits and continued complications for those needing to travel.

Lesotho, a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, has a deep economic dependence on its only neighbour. Many Basotho travel to SA for work, and historically, opportunities in SA have drawn Basotho into its labour market since the early 1900s. It is estimated that about 500,000 Basotho currently reside in SA for economic purposes. The proposed 90-day visa-free period would have provided crucial mobility for many of these individuals.

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