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SA and Lesotho on Thursday promised to fight illegal mining and undertook to work together to improve trade and other relations between the two neighbours. 

“We were deeply saddened by the unfortunate loss of lives of illegal miners in Harmony Gold Mine in Welkom,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa. “Our respective governments are working with the mining company on the best methods‚ as well as the plan that has been put in place‚ to retrieve the remains of the miners without endangering the rescue personnel.”

The matter is highly sensitive and “emotive”‚ particularly for the people of Lesotho‚ and SA “will do everything we can to make sure this whole challenge ... is properly handled”‚ he said. Both leaders are aware of the “sensitivity and complexity” of the matter‚ said Ramaphosa.

He and Lesotho’s Prime Minister Samuel Matekane spoke at the inaugural session of the binational commission in Pretoria on Thursday.

The president said he welcomed Matekane’s commitment to prioritise the implementation and completion of the comprehensive national reform process.

The elevation of the bilateral commission of co-operation between the two countries to a binational commission is testament to the unwavering commitment to bolster relations‚ he said.

“SA attaches great importance to its bilateral relations and co-operation with Lesotho. Our relationship is anchored in historic bonds of language‚ culture and heritage. Economic relations between our two countries have grown over the years and continue to mutually benefit our respective peoples‚” said Ramaphosa.

SA businesses in Lesotho contribute to job creation while Lesotho’s water resources continue to benefit this country‚ he said. For years, Lesotho’s people worked on SA farms and mines.

“It is important for the governments of both countries to work together to resolve challenges faced by businesses and put in place mechanisms to ensure investments are protected.

“SA highly appreciates the co-operation on water resources between the two countries. In particular‚ we welcome Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project as a vital development to enhance water security in Gauteng province and other parts of SA.

“The Lesotho Highlands Water Project also contributes to job creation in Lesotho and the construction of new roads‚ bringing access to previously inaccessible areas of Lesotho. SA is ready to co-operate with Lesotho to resolve any challenges that may arise in implementation of the project.”

SA was also keen to work with its neighbour on four proposed renewable energy projects, he said.

Ramaphosa gave his assurance that SA will continue to support the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) panel of elders and the mediation reference group initiative to assist the Basotho to complete the national reform process.

Matekane said his visit to SA was not only about strengthening ties between the two countries but also to celebrate the launch of the binational commission agreement.

“The official launch of the binational commission ushers in a new beginning in the relationship between SA and Lesotho,” he said.

“For centuries our forebears freely interacted and enjoyed people-to-people relations that continue to underpin our relations even today.”

The economies of both countries are not only intertwined but interdependent‚ said Matekane.

“As we hold this historic first session of the BNC‚ our duty is to build on the rich history between the countries and the co-operation that is strong in many fields.

“The BNC will serve as a platform for dialogue when we discuss issues of mutual concern‚ explore new opportunities in areas of co-operation and develop innovative solutions to our common challenges that will foster a deeper co-operation and understanding between our two nations.”

The commission will accelerate stronger co-operation in critical areas such as migration‚ trade‚ green energy‚ water resources‚ infrastructure development‚ transport‚ agriculture‚ mining‚ digital technologies‚ defence and security.

The two countries will continue to hold diplomatic consultations to harmonise positions on regional‚ continental and international issues of concern and interest‚ said Matekane.


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