Returning Basotho victimised in SA

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Maseru Border Post today
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By Teboho Serutla

Lesotho nationals returning home after overstaying in neighbouring South Africa due to the Covid-19 pandemic complain that they continue to be persecuted by SA immigration officers at different ports of entry.

Lesotho home affairs minister Motlalentoa Letsosa last week announced that Basotho who were forced to remain in South Africa beyond the permitted 30 days due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic in March, would be allowed be allowed to cross back into the country without any penalties at the border gates. The same applied to holders of the Lesotho Special Permits which expired during the same period.

However, it has emerged that such Basotho are having their passports blacklisted by SA immigration officers, in effect banishing them from entering that country.

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Those who spoke to theReporter at Maseru Bridge today confirmed that they had indeed had their passports ‘destroyed’.

 One of them, ‘Manthatisi Thakali, said: “I was trapped in Bloemfontein since March and couldn’t come back because of the travel restrictions. I had heard that our government had made arrangements for us to cross without any hitches.

“However, the people on the South African side of the Bridge destroyed my passport. It’s many of us who have suffered this fate.  Only those who paid a M200 bribe escaped the wrath.”

Meanwhile, South Africa’s Maseru Bridge post manager Thabo Ncoma said only people with valid passports will be allowed to cross the border.

“No will be allowed to cross without a passport. Basotho that lost their passports should go to the Lesotho High Commission in South Africa to get emergency travelling documents. Those whose permits or visas expired during lockdown, who has entered South Africa after January 15 will be granted amnesty to cross,” Ncoma told a local radio station.

IN another development, this publication has learned that special permit holders who did not renew the permits after their expiry during the lockdown, have also had their passports ‘terminated’.