It’s time to reclaim the conquered territory!

It’s time to reclaim the conquered territory!

The South African Parliament has proposed amendment of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation to indigenous inhabitants of such land.
The amendment failed to pass in the Fifth Parliament’s term until it came to an end. Black South Africans hope it will be tabled in the Sixth Parliament. It gives us time as Basotho to get our act together.
South Africa is embarking on land reform so as to address the historic wrongs caused by the arbitrary dispossession of land. South Africa must remember that when land returns to its rightful owners, Basotho were also unjustly and arbitrarily dispossessed of their land.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my brother and friend, Lebeko Sello, about this matter. We spoke about the concept of “Amicus curiae” a Latin phrase meaning “friend of the court.”
Friend of the court is usually someone who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party and his duty is to assist a court because that person has a strong interest in the subject matter.
In most cases, such a person usually assists the court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case; and this information is typically presented in the form of a brief.
I don’t know what Basotho would call themselves in the South African Parliament, but we need to petition the

Speaker and make her aware that Basotho have a strong interest in the subject matter at hand in their House.
His Majesty King Letsie II must initiate this important petition because of the lost land that belonged to King Moshoeshoe. It’s actually an opportune moment for us to act.
We would be cowards if we could sit and do nothing about the matter. For if we keep silent at this time, somebody else will claim our lost land, our generation will remain with this small piece of land till we perish. The time has arrived for Basotho to claim the lost land that belongs to them.

Our generation was born for such a time as this, when the South African Parliament wants to address the historic evils caused by the arbitrary dispossession of land.
We would not be the first to make that attempt. And we don’t lose anything, in fact we have already lost everything valuable to Basotho. King Moshoeshoe cried foul concerning the injustice of the land lost in the 19th century.

In 1919 just after the end of World War 1, the National Council of Basutoland made a petition to the King of England regarding the issue of regaining Basotho’s lost land:
“Finally we humbly pray and beseech Your Majesty to give his gracious and generous consideration to our prayer for the restoration of our rights of which we have been deprived, that is, large tracts of our land which lie to the North-West, West and South-East of Basutoland of today. Our reasons for submitting this prayer to Your Majesty is on account of understanding made by Your Majesty’s Government and those of Your Majesty’s Allies that all nations, great and small, which had had their rights violated by those more powerful than they, are to have those rights restored, and being in the same category we therefore humbly pray that Your Majesty may graciously accord is the same recognition.”

Today, the South African government clearly agrees with resolution 1817 (XVII) of 18 December 1962 regarding the Territories of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland, that all the land taken from indigenous inhabitants must be returned to them. This is the UN resolution on the question of lost lands:

“XVIII. RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED WITHOUT REFERENCE TO A COMMITTEE
1954. Question of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland
The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 1817 (XVII) of 18 December 1962 regarding the Territories of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland, which was adopted in accordance with the terms of its resolutions 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, 1654 (XVI) of 27 November 1961 and 1810 (XVII) of 17 December 1962,

Having considered the part of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples relating to Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland,[1]
Regretting that the administering Power has not taken effective steps to implement the provisions of resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1817 (XVII),

Being cognizant of the fact that the claim and the demand of the Government of the Republic of South Africa that these Territories should be transferred to South Africa remain unchanged,

Recalling the declaration contained in General Assembly resolution 1817 (XVII) to the effect that any attempt to annex Basutoland, Bechuanaland or Swaziland, or to encroach upon their territorial integrity in any way, will be regarded by the United Nations as an act of aggression violating the Charter of the United Nations,
Mindful of the unsatisfactory economic, financial and social conditions in these three Territories and their dire need for external assistance,

1. Reaffirms the inalienable right of the peoples of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland to self-determination and independence;

2. Reiterates its request that the administering Power take immediate steps to return to the indigenous inhabitants all the land taken from them, whatever the form or pretext for such alienation;

3. Once more requests the administering Power to convene immediately a constitutional conference for each of the three Territories, in which all groups representing all opinions will participate with a view to devising democratic constitutional arrangements which will lead to general elections based on universal suffrage and, thereafter, to immediate independence;

4. Solemnly warns the Government of the Republic of South Africa that any attempt to annex or encroach upon the territorial integrity of these three Territories shall be considered an act of aggression;

5. Requests the Secretary-General to provide economic, financial and technical assistance commensurate with the special needs of the Territories through the United Nations programmes of technical co-operation and the specialized agencies.

1277th plenary meeting, 11 December 1963.”

In 1993 the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) had a powerful slogan “Ea khutla naha.” In translation, “the land shall return.” I have asked congress followers why we forgot about the above mentioned famous slogan and to be honest I have never received a convincing answer.

I am afraid we abandoned a mission that was very important to Basotho. Disappointing indeed, but it’s about time we claim what belongs to us as Basotho.
But the UN resolution remains for us to act upon it. This is an opportune time for us to act when indigenous people in South Africa are claiming their land back. Who will claim our land? Historically and traditionally land belongs to chiefs.
Our government must write to the South African government and inform them that Basotho have an interest in what they are discussing in their parliament.

By Ramahooana Matlosa

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