Lesotho, SA sign new bilateral pact

 . . . Bi-national Commission to replace 2001 JBCC

STAFF REPORTER

MASERU – Lesotho and South Africa (SA) have signed a new bilateral agreement that will replace the Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation (JBCC) which came into place in 2001 and was largely seen as ineffective. The new agreement to be known as the Bi-National Commission was signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers yesterday in Pretoria, in preparation for its formal launch early next year.

Lesotho’s ’Matšepo Molise-Ramakoae and her SA counterpart Naledi Pandor penned the agreement yesterday, November 25 in Pretoria, South Africa. According to a statement issued yesterday in Maseru, the new bilateral agreement will continue to focus on four thematic clusters of the economy, social development, good governance, security and stability.

However, a new cluster has been established which will focus on strategic and political fields. The statement further said a memorandum of understanding has already been signed for the new cluster in order to create diplomatic consultations between the two countries on issues of mutual interest at a bilateral, regional and internationally. Other clusters are yet to sign own MOUs before the launch of the Commission, the statement added.

Among some of the key ingredients of the new bilateral agreement would be to renew and redefine cooperation between the two countries going forward and on how to address emerging transnational crimes such as terrorism, human trafficking, money laundering, smuggling of persons and other issues of mutual interest in this field. Key also in this new agreement is the easing of cross border movement for both persons and goods between the two countries.

The two Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, officiated a similar signing ceremony on November 23 last year, which was in preparation for the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the JBCC between Lesotho and South Africa meant to review and improve the 2001 agreement. During this meeting, the ministers recalled the signing of the JBCC Agreement in 2001 and its objective, noting that the last meeting of the JBCC was held in April 2013 in South Africa, subsequently leading to the lapse of progress in many areas of cooperation.

They also agreed to finalise arrangements for the festive season, particularly special arrangements and consideration for mineworkers and Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) holders to ensure smooth entry and departure. The Council of Ministers also discussed issues of mutual interest, including measures to facilitate cross border movement of people, goods and services at this time of Covid-19 pandemic. In this regard, the ministers agreed that urgent action plan was then required to address the challenges faced by students’ transport and delays in the movement of patients across the border.

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