Our King deserves respect from South Africa

Our King deserves respect from South Africa

So, some dumb South African immigration officials, fully devoid of any morality found it fitting to carry out a seriously contemptible act by treating the beloved King of the Kingdom of Lesotho worse than their own ancestors and parents were ever treated by the white man’s regime during apartheid.

These are people who, together with their relatives were given refuge in several households in this country during that era. A lot of Basotho people needlessly lost their lives when the white oppressors indiscriminately opened fire and hailed bullets on their households, accusing the Basotho of harbouring ‘outlaws’ and ‘fugitives’.

Lesotho was only worth anything in as far it provided a safe haven for them. Now that same Lesotho serves only as a nuisance and is looked upon in condescension. Did the officers even understand the possible repercussions of their acts? I seriously doubt that. Was it even within their seemingly morally degenerated minds to understand that this had the potential to cause a diplomatic row?

Maybe only those who directly suffered under the oppressive apartheid regime would have a full comprehension of the gravity of their shameful action and their impact to the stature of a man who is not only a king but also fit to be king judging by his demeanour characterised by meekness and humility.

Although the details are sketchy owing to the fact that this deplorable act took place long ago in February 2018 and for some peculiar reason was not made public, it turns out that His Majesty the King was inexplicably made to wait in the queue for two hours. To rub salt in the wound, in a country riddled with crime, where foreigners are often senselessly attacked and assaulted in acts which smack of xenophobia; and where a two year old mobile phone is worth much more than the life of its owner, ironically these officials found it necessary to search the King’s vehicles as if he was some smuggler.

Forget that the man is a king for a second, he is your typical gentleman and looks nothing like a criminal. No wonder this drew so much condemnation from the Lesotho public. The man is revered and held in high stead in this country. Is this treatment surprising in any way? Certainly not! No self-respecting country would ever issue diplomatic passports to individuals who have the potential to misuse such important travel documents.

Lesotho has never and would never do such a thing either. In as much as I am willing to bet that the King did not act in any manner suspicious or untoward to these officials to warrant such a disgraceful treatment, surely His Majesty was travelling on his diplomatic passport. This is a document which upon it being presented to such officials (more so by a King), should have sent through their sensory nerves a “respect him” message.

A well-functioning central nervous system would have interpreted the message as such and only the right actions would have subsequently been taken by these individuals. This was in no uncertain terms conduct unbecoming of these officers. Every one of us can bear testimony to the horrendous treatment Basotho people are subjected to every time they arrive on the South African side at the border post to cross over, especially at the Maseru Bridge.

The long queue would be moving at a pace slower than that of a snail in the scorching heat of the sun. Your heart would bleed when you look around to see a mother carrying a backpack, her two toddlers by her side; she would be pushing another heavy bag using her feet to slowly get closer to the immigration officers. Several old people would be looking around for places to sit and hide away from the sun. When one finally arrives at the window, if these officials are not chatting with each other, laughing and clattering on top of their voices while people are waiting patiently to be afforded services, they are busy peck-typing and swiping on their smart mobile phones.

On the day the queue is some of the longest that is when they would usually have only one official manning the work station and serving these hundreds of people at that particular time. It never rains but it pours! Amid these delays at the border gates, recently the South African home affairs department has begun installing biometrics scanners where individuals’ fingerprints have to be scanned before the individuals could be allowed to pass. I believe this is only meant to ‘punish’ Basotho even further. This has caused even more delays as most people are not familiar with this equipment.

What crime could the Basotho have possibly committed to warrant this demonic treatment? The rumour mill has it that several South African immigration officials working in Maseru have since been suspended for fraud and for taking bribes. I do not know how true this is but should it be, then it certainly explains this cruel and inhumane treatment of the people from the tiny kingdom. It is also said that a ludicrous but lame excuse that has been forwarded by their home affairs department regarding the deteriorating services at the border gate is that there is shortage of staff, but since the case involving the suspended officials is still on-going, the department is in no position to hire replacement hands to ease the crisis there.

The impact of South African heavy handedness is felt by Lesotho more than it does other Southern African countries. How many of us know that the Lesotho Special Permit (work permit) came as a result of discontentment from the Lesotho Government in that such scheme had been extended to the Zimbabweans and not to the Basotho?

I first learned about this treatment of our King on a news crawl of one South African TV news channel where bizarrely, the relevant caption read, “South Africa intervenes to avert diplomatic row after alleged ill-treatment of Lesotho King”!! Intervenes? Really?

What does that even mean in this case? So, if one takes an example of a family set up, a man ill-treats his wife and in an effort to redress his inequity, he then intervenes!!! Absurd!! There is such an insatiable sense of entitlement and self importance that seems to characterise our bigger and stronger neighbour here.

It could be a by-product of the power I alluded to earlier, but it is sickening. To their credit, the South African foreign minister was quick to acknowledge her country’s wrong doing and even promised to travel to Lesotho to personally apologise to the King after the Easter holidays. True to the promise, I understand that indeed this took place. The South African foreign minister came and actually personally met the King and duly apologised. Now, this begs the question though of whether their foreign minister is in terms of protocol the right person to come meet the King on this or not?

I would not be surprised that it should not have happened this way. South Africa is admittedly a powerful country. By virtue of that, they already are dominant in almost every aspect and therefore the flexing of muscles and the unfair application of hegemonic power by them is downright inappropriate.

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