Wednesday, February 25

Lesotho + South Africa

Rethabile has a post on unification between Lesotho and South Africa. He list a number of condition that he thinks would have to be met for such a unification to be possible.

i/. One country must unite with another on an equal footing. There must not be any talk of one party joining another or becoming part of another (I might have sinned in the past on this point);
ii/. The rapprochement must be gradual, spanning at least two generations. Everything must be debated and debated and planned and planned. Parallels must be drawn with Europe and with other examples (the US, if a federal system is to be employed);
iii/. After the debating and the planning, the setting-up must be an inch-by-inch affair, ie Currency first, then a Common Constitution, etc;
iv/. The advantages must be made plain to both the high-level executive and the veld herdboy. Every head must be made to feel part of the whole (easier said than done, I know);
v/. I've never really sat down to consider how this could practically be done, but I'm sure there a few other points that would have to be respected.

After reading this I've realized what a difficult undertaking this would be.

Firstly South Africa and Lesotho would not be equal partners. Lesotho would always be the junior partner, and in a federal South Africa Lesotho would be pretty junior indeed. Some facts from our ever reliable CIA friends;

GDP: South Africa: $427.7 billion (2002 est.) Lesotho: $5.106 billion (2002 est.)
Population: South Africa:42,768,678 Lesotho: 1,861,959

Lesotho would have to become part of South Africa in any such union. It could be a province, but federal powers are limited to local issues in South Africa and are very limited indeed. Basotho could not have a special veto or say in the running of South Africa, and given the large population differences Basotho would have even less of a political force then Afrikaners, also a relatively small minority.

Federal powers are also not likely to be increased to such a level where they are meaningful any time soon. If anything, provinces are likely to loose even more power in the future as government tries to become more efficient.

Constitutionally Lesotho would have to accept the South African constitution and judicial system. Given that out judicial systems are almost identical I doubt any Basotho would notice the difference. The traditional leaders of the Basotho on the other hand might have a serious problem giving up power, as has been seen in Kwazulu and the Eastern Cape.

Putting it bluntly, South Africa would hardly blink if Lesotho joined the union. For the Basotho it would mean the end of self governance, however mismanaged it has been. Basotho nationalism being what it is, I don't know if this is possible.

The advantages to South Africa would be limited. South Africa already makes use of Basotho labour, without having the expense of them being citizens with all the rights and privileges attached. Buying water from Lesotho is a lot cheaper then providing the infrastructure and investment that Lesotho would deserve as part of South Africa. Lesotho holds all the economic benefits of a bantustan for South Africa, without the political fallout.

The advantages for the Basotho would be becoming South African citizens and being able to integrate economically into South Africa. It would bring in investment, enterprise and money. It would lesson the administrative burden of the Lesotho government considerable. Not having to maintain the apparatus of state would lead to a huge cut in spending, that could go towards development. South Africa would also provide a safety net for Lesotho. Draught as is currently being experienced would not be a national emergency but a case of moving resources around.

The disadvantages would be that once in the union there would be no backing out. Lesotho would be part of South Africa for better or for worse. Lesotho would belong to all South Africans. As the Basotho would be able to go and live anywhere they pleased, South Africans will go to Lesotho, buy property, build mountain cabins and start farms. Are the Basotho ready to have their land bought out from under them?

As I've said before, politically this would only be possible if it was an issue driven by the Basotho themselves. South Africa has little to gain, except perhaps righting a wrong.


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