Honourable Members of Parliament;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honoured to stand here before you, the representatives of a nation that, more than any other, has shared the same history as our own South African nation.
We have fought the same enemies, mourned our losses together and celebrated each other's victories as our own.
The achievement of your forebears in holding colonial forces at bay was emulated, in our own time, apartheid regime encircling your land.
For that, for the succour you gave to our sons and daughters, for your solidarity and selfless commitment to our freedom, you paid a fearful price. The wrath of our oppressors respected no borders. It knew no distinction between fighter and civilian, between adult and child, between South African and Mosotho.
And so we thank the Basotho nation for the support and understanding of our struggle. We will not forget the sacrifices that your country had to endure during these years.
Ladies and gentlemen;
In the same way as we shared the vicissitudes of struggle, the challenge we now face is to work together to realise the possibilities of freedom.
We take pride in being able to inform you that after our first year of freedom we are poi We are able to do so because, above all, South Africans have joined together in common pursuit of a better life for all.
National reconciliation is creating powerful instruments of change out of our political institutions, our organisations of civil society and the forums that bridge these two realms.
As South Africans we are proud of our achievements. But we do also recognise that the challenges that lie before us are no different to those faced by the region and indeed Africa as a whole. Common needs and interdependence dictate a common interest in regional integration and reconstruction. Geography decrees that this is even more so in the case of our two countries.
Closer cooperation between Lesotho and South Africa is a priority for our Government of National Unity and falls within the scope of our Reconstruction and Development Programme. This applies to bilateral relations in the political sphere. It applies to trade and industry, job creation, economic growth, educational and cultural exchanges, agricultural cooperation, transfer of technology and stability within the region.
One sector in particular exemplifies the close relation between our countries, and demands special mention on this occasion. Each day tens of thousands of Basotho miners toil underground in the mines of South Africa alongside workers from across the southern region of our continent. Over the years many have lost their lives, most recently in the tragic accident at the Vaal Reefs mine and the fire at St. Helena gold mine. We grieve with the families of these men, the often unsung creators of the wealth of both our countries.
Our government regards it as a matter of the greatest urgency that the risks which miners face should be reduced. To this end we are working with employers and unions to ensure that no time is lost in implementing recommendations of the Leon Commission of Enquiry into Mine Safety.
We are also mindful of our responsibility to assist Lesotho in coping with the consequences of falling employment within the mining industry. For that reason one of the main areas of official South African development assistance to Lesotho is in the retraining of retrenched mineworkers.
Mr. Speaker;The future prosperity of our region, like that of our continent, requires of us that we adopt a co-operative and integrated approach to the things that jointly affect us. The conditions for regional cooperation and integration have never been so favourable. Democratic governance throughout the region, stability and increasingly like-minded approaches to economic matters provide a framework for integrated strategies for regional development and security.
South Africa is ready to play its part, as an equal partner, within this context and within a broader perspective that emphasis on the importance of an African framework for our endeavours.
As partners in Southern Africa we have a need, by means of joint working committees, as well as bilateral and multilateral agreements, to establish instruments based on consensus for dealing with common problems and seizing the opportunities that now exist. I believe that our two countries can be proud of our co-operation in such areas.
The Extradition Treaty we signed last month is just one recent example in our common war against crime. It should reinforce the progress of our combined security forces in combating cross border stock theft and drug trafficking.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project stands as a towering example of co-operative infrastructural development. It is inconceivable except as a joint project with international support. It will, if completed and managed according to plan, bring immense benefits to each country, with a decisive impact on their development. Inevitably, so grand a project will, in its construction, after the lives of those in its immediate path. Our two government's have agreed on measures to compensate such communities for their losses and to implement development projects that will allow them to maintain or even improve their standard of living. Mr. Speaker;The first condition of all other progress towards making our region a better place for all who live in it, is peace and stability. South Africa is ready to play a constructive role in that regard.
We are especially pleased to have been able to contribute, along with other Southern African states, to the peaceful resolution of differences which threatened to undermine democracy in Lesotho.
As one of the guarantors of this process South Africa is gratified at the progress in implementing the provisions of the agreement reached last September.
We understand that the Government's commitment to broaden democracy in Lesotho will see the start of a National Dialogue in the not too distant future.
These developments are most welcome. We will continue to support you in your efforts. South Africa, along with the international community, is just as anxious to see permanent peace and stability in your beautiful country, as are the people and the Government of Lesotho.
However, the ultimate guarantor of democracy, Honourable Members, is the vigour with which it lives in the hearts of the people. The future of this great Kingdom is now in the hands of those who were democratically elected and are charged with the responsibility of securing it. Their success depends on the support and co-operation of all social structures.
We are confident that there is sufficient readiness on the part of all citizens, in government, in state structures and in civil society, to allow democracy to work by committing themselves to strive for common solutions through negotiations and co-operations.
We believe that there is enough will among political parties to build on their common concerns for the Basotho nation, rather than letting the smaller differences keep them apart.
We are confident that the power of reconciliation in your country is stronger than the temptation of conflict.
Like you, the Government and the people of South Africa, the members of SADC and the international community, all look forward with hope and with confidence.
The Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho are partners within the community of Southern Africa nations. Our peoples have followed a long course of history together. In the months and the years to come, we look forward to the deepening of relations. We will continue to explore areas of co-operation between our two countries and within the framework of the SADC.
As the people of Lesotho address the issues at hand, South Africa and the other countries of Southern Africa stand with you, wishing you success and ready to assist. We shall not fail the force of democracy in your kingdom.