Should Lesotho become the 10th province of South Africa?
The bitter debate amongst members of the Southern African Customs Union over the formula for dividing up the import tariffs received primarily by South Africa shows no sign of abating. Despite the positive speeches made by leaders of SACU member states at its SACU 100 year celebration during April, many statements about SA’s tendency to bully the other member-states into conformity continue to be made. The fact that the economic recession has not lifted means that most of the economies of the SACU member states remain in dire straits.
With 90% of its national budget coming from the tariffs it receives from SA, perhaps the worst affected of the SACU member states is Lesotho, the poorest state of all. Lesotho is a country that is completely surrounded by South Africa – i.e. not only is it land-locked, but it is SA-locked. With over 3-million citizens living in SA while only 1.8 million citizens remain at home in Lesotho, it is not surprising that the Lesotho government has become quite frank about the situation it finds itself in. Although national pride remains a huge factor, the Lesotho government has distributed a booklet to its citizens announcing that free movement between Lesotho and SA is on the cards, with a common ID document to be issued to Lesotho citizens as well.
There appear to be many benefits that Lesotho citizens could obtain if the country was incorporated into SA. As SA has a number of kings already, simply including the kingdom of Moshoeshoe in SA as well does not seem to be a huge obstacle. But, if this means SA’s pension and social facilities would be extended to residents of Lesotho, which citizens of Lesotho would be able to argue against it?
Already the economies of SA and Lesotho are completely intertwined. The Katse Dam and the Lesotho Highlands project impacts on both countries, and much of the expertise required comes from SA. If the main aim is to build up the regional economy for mutual benefit of SACU member-states, the logical thing would be to incorporate Lesotho as on SA’s provinces.