. . . as desperate citizens bribe to secure IDs


MASERU – A significant number of Basotho reported difficulties in obtaining government identity documents last year, often resorting to bribery to secure their identities. Libuseng Malephane from the National Investigator Advisement Lesotho said that the Afrobarometer team interviewed 1,200 adult Basotho between March 3 and 18, 2024. Almost 64 percent of Basotho reported that it was difficult to obtain government identity documents, with 49 percent describing the process as “very difficult.”

Additionally, 22 percent mentioned having to pay a bribe to get their documents, and 12 percent reported paying bribes to receive police assistance. Among those who had contact with the government regarding the ease of obtaining identity documents in the past 12 months, 49 percent found it very difficult, 15 percent found it difficult, 19 percent found it easy, while 17 percent found it very easy.

The issue of bribery for identity documents has grown over the years. In 2017, six percent of people reported paying a bribe, which increased to 15 percent in 2020, 16 percent in 2022, and 22 percent in 2024. Similarly, those needing other public services, such as police assistance and medical care, also reported paying bribes. It was revealed that 39 percent of those seeking identity documents from the government were aged 18–35, while only 16 percent were over 55.

Malephane said the majority of Basotho are struggling because these difficulties affect their everyday lives, especially those in rural areas. She said when something essential becomes hard to obtain, people will resort to any means necessary. These findings highlight the need to improve the government’s ability to provide these important documents, as difficulties in obtaining or renewing them can encourage corruption.

This year’s findings indicate an increasing trend in these issues, suggesting that the home affairs ministry responsible for issuing identity documents needs to enhance its services. However, recent reports show that the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftainship, Home Affairs, and Police is facing challenges in issuing these documents.

It has been reported that the budget allocated to the ministry is insufficient to meet all its obligations, with the procurement of national identity cards being a key concern. Many Basotho have complained that even emergency applicants are facing delays beyond the prescribed timelines. Additionally, people are encountering challenges in renewing their expired documents, resulting in their inability to access services with expired identities.

This situation often leads to bribery and corruption. So far, the government has not provided adequate means to procure IDs, leaving citizens struggling to access basic services.