Lesotho: Students in South Africa Seek Asylum

Lesotho: Students in South Africa Seek Asylum

Lesotho: Students in South Africa Seek Asylum

Lesotho: Students in South Africa Seek Asylum

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Mr. Lejone Mpotjoane said the Lerotholi Polytechnic students who fled Lesotho on August 3 sought asylum in South Africa.

The Minister said this during the press briefing held at Ministry’s premises in Maseru on Wednesday.

Mr. Mpotjoane said that out of 62 students who fled the country, only 38 returned home while 24 stayed in South Africa.

He said they tried to bring the Lerotholi Polytechnic students back home but some of them agreed while others refused to return home.

He said this was due to the students’ protest demanding to be given allowances for July, noting that according to their contracts with the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS), the month of July was not included as the expectation was that the academic year would be completed therefore, the school was closed on June 30 before students could write the exams.

He further noted that the students filed a lawsuit in court on August 2 and the court ruled that the school should be opened for students to write exams.

He mentioned that on August 3, students had an illegal protest on the school grounds and the police curbed the protest. Further explaining that this is where some of the students crossed the Mohokare River into South Africa.

Mr. Mpotjoane said they were later arrested by members of the South African military (SANDF), who were guarding the area on the banks of the river.

He stated that the students were handed over to those who brought them to the Maseru Bridge and the students’ representative contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations to intervene and help the students be released from detention and return to Lesotho.

However, the Minister said the Chief Secretary of the Department, led a delegation of officials from the Department with the Lesotho police, to the Maseru Bridge to help those who were released and return home.

He said the students confessed that they were worried that they would be arrested and tortured by the Lesotho police, noting that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service representative assured them that they were free to return home and would not be tortured.

He stated that the Department of Immigration in South Africa pointed out that since the students had fled the torture inflicted on them by the Lesotho police, they have given them temporary asylum and they will not be forced to return home until they are assured that they are safe according to the relevant international laws.

He said the South African officials told the students that it is in their right to stay in South Africa or return to Lesotho but if they feel unsafe they have the right to stay in South Africa and apply for asylum.

The Minister said a delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Lesotho in Welkom, went to Manyatseng Lady brand and met with the officials at the level of the Free State Province.

He said the plan was to talk to the students to come back home, noting that during their talks the students outline their conditions for returning home that include: the Government of Lesotho has to commit in writing that they will not be arrested or tortured, there should be reconciliation and cancellation of all illegal activities related to their actions during the strike and lastly the police should be removed from the college premises.

It is said that the temporary asylum given to the students is expected to expire on August 10, 2023.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Government of Lesotho.