Known as a popular slogan during the pre-independence and the 1970’s political drive by the then main opposition, the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), the issue was dampened following the 1993 return to multi-party democracy in Lesotho.
It was further silenced by the end of the apartheid regime in SA, which saw the new dawn democracy and the election of the country’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, after decades of white minority rule.
In one of his first trips across the world, Mandela made a courtesy call to Lesotho, expressing his sympathy that Lesotho is landlocked without any access to the sea. He wished Lesotho could have at least a corridor to the sea on the Eastern Cape side. He was responding to a question of whether South Africa could consider relocating Basotho affected by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) into the Free State land. Mandela said unfortunately Free State was another territory and the African Union had already pronounced itself on the issue of conquered territories in Africa.
Responding to the same question at the same press conference, his counterpart, Dr Ntsu Mokhehle said the issue of conquered territory was not his government preference at the time.
With Basotho Lead Petitioners re-issuing their petition to the British government almost a year and a month after the first petition, also coinciding with the United Nations summit in New York, expectations are high the debates around the return of Lesotho land taken by the Boer republicans more than a century ago could take a level higher and even receive more attention from all concerned parties.
“We made it our project and programme that we are not just going to issue the petition and keep silent. We are not just petitioning the Queen of England, but we are also engaging others and we are prepared to fight to the bitter end,” said Mpho Serobanyane, speaking on behalf of the Basotho Lead Petitioners.
Mr Serobanyane said the forum was formed as a non-political and denominational front in order to face the issue through a lens that did not recognise political or other interests other than reclaiming the land that rightfully belongs to Basotho.
“When the British authority reached the decision in 1854, through the so-called Bloemfontein Declaration, Basotho and their rulers were not consulted on the matter, the decision was just imposed on them, so there is no question that Basotho were robbed of their land,” he said.
The forum he showed was mindful of previous attempts to thwart moves for the return of the land and to entice Basotho with the corridor and access to sea, which he believed would not discourage them from their project.