Lesotho group petitions Queen Elizabeth to get back SA land

2018-06-23 11:00
(Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

(Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

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A group from Lesotho, which calls itself the 'Basotho Petitioners', has petitioned Britain's Queen Elizabeth to demand the return to land in South Africa.

They claim the land is "rightfully" theirs.

The group's co-ordinator Mpho Serobanyane, said the petition was handed over to the British Embassy in Pretoria last Tuesday. A response has not yet been received.

"The petition is all about the readjustment request for Lesotho boundaries. That is all we are requesting for her majesty Queen Elizabeth to do for the Basotho," Serobanyane told News24. 

Bloemfontein convention

He said they submitted the petition because the British monarchy had authorised the land distribution in 1854 during the Orange River convention, which is also known as the Bloemfontein convention.

The convention was one whereby the British formally recognised the independence of 'the Boers' in the area between the Orange and Vaal rivers. 

This resulted in the formation of the independent Boer Republic of the Orange Free State.  

"What we know is that the petition will be handed over to their high commissioner, who will take it to Queen Elizabeth," Serobanyane said. 

He added that, if they did not receive any response, they would engage with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnston. 

Serobanyane added that they had also asked about conducting a presentation of their petition to the queen, to explain their documentation to her.

'Only Queen Elizabeth can undo'

"If [she] finds that our petition is not applicable, we therefore have everything documented that will guide and give light as to what our intentions are, and how we are going to deal with the readjustments of the boundaries," he added. 

Serobanyane said land that historically belonged to them was in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. 

"In KwaZulu-Natal, there was a part of the land which in Sesotho, was called 'Ha/Kobo'...According to the map done in 1910, in Free State you will see that our boundary goes as far as Botswana," he said. 

Serobanyane reiterated that only the queen could undo colonial borders. 

He said the group was happy about the "positive" support they had had with Basotho citizens after they had approached people via social media and radio to support their petition.

"Not a political matter"

Serobanyane explained that the group had not engaged with the governments of Lesotho and South Africa because they did not want to make the matter a "political" issue as it would divide the Basotho. 

"This is an issue of the nation at large, the person we think should engage with the South African government should be Queen Elizabeth, because we have directed our petition to her since it was the Britain Monarchy that in 1854 gave South Africa right over our boundaries," he said. 

"It is up to the queen and the commonwealth to engage with SA regarding our petition. We have also given a copy of our petition to the UN and the European Union as well."

British High Commission spokesperson Isabel Potgieter confirmed it had received the petition.

However, she said the issues of boundaries were not for the British government.

"Issues around territorial borders are for the governments of Lesotho and South Africa. However, the petition has been passed to London, where it has been noted," Potgieter said. 

"No formal correspondence"

Rural Development and Land Reform spokesperson Moses Rannditsheni said they had not received any form of correspondence from the group and were therefore not in a position to comment further.

"As a department, we have not received any correspondence from the Basotho petitioners and, as such, we are not in a position to make any reaction. We will attend to their claims only after we have received formal correspondence from them," Rannditsheni said.

Read more on:    queen elizabeth  |  lesotho

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