The Plight of the Basotho under Lockdown in South Africa

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I am a reclaimer who is not from South Africa, I am from Lesotho. In this lockdown of
COVID-19 it is very hard for non-South Africans in so many ways. We are excluded from
all things. The City of Johannesburg wants to offer work permits to reclaimers but only to
South Africans. It’s very disturbing and confusing because the work we do as reclaimers is
the same, and we are all playing a major role in the economy of South Africa.

We are also denied access to food parcels. We were told the food parcels are only for
people holding South Africa IDs. I was hoping every African is welcome in any country in
the world, especially on the continent of Africa but COVID-19 has shown me that as a
Mosotho my home is only Lesotho.

Some Basotho reclaimers are staying under bridges and in the bush because they have
been kicked out of the houses they were staying in because they can’t manage to pay the
rent. There are people with chronic diseases, and they are not helped in health centres.
They are told to produce the transfer letters from their countries at the health centres. The
question is where and how can people get these letters when they are locked down here in
South Africa?

This is very unfair. As Africans we always sing a song that says ‘Africa Must Unite’, but in
which way or situations should we unite? Unity must be shown in every situation, but more
especially in difficult times.

We call Lesotho our home – home sweet home, where there is peace and harmony – but
in this difficult time of Coronavirus we have not received any assistance from the Lesotho
government, not even food. We have many questions as Basothos living in South Africa to
our government but unfortunately we can’t reach them. The Lesotho government has
forgotten that there are Lesotho nationals living in South Africa but during election times
they bring buses to all nine provinces to collect Basotho to go home for free just to vote in
the elections. But now in this hard time of COVID-19 they can’t send medication or even
mealie meal. The worst part is that the Lesotho Embassy and the Consulate are closed,
and there is no one to assist. If you call their phone numbers it goes straight to voice mail,
whereas they should be available to help their people.

Some Basotho have walked from South Africa to Lesotho saying that it’s better to die at
home than in other people’s country where their families will not even get to see their

Mantoa Khoali is a reclaimer and organiser in the African Reclaimers Organisation. This
article was submitted on 30 May 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit
the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please
include a link back to the original article.

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