This House believes Lesotho should be annexed by South Africa

Lesotho is a small country of just over 30,355 km2 (12,727 sq. mi) in size with a population slightly over two million which is landlocked and completely surrounded by South Africa, a much bigger country 40 times the size and 26 times its population. This unusual situation of a country having no access to the sea and being completely surrounded by another country is a result of South Africa and Lesotho’s colonial history.

Basutoland, as the current Lesotho was known was threatened from the 1830s by the Boers, originally Dutch colonists in South Africa though no longer under Dutch control, who claimed territory in the region. The British in charge of Cape Colony, the colony that would later go on to be South Africa, in response made a treaty with Basotho recognising them as an ally in 1843. While Anglo Basotho relations were briefly upset by a brief war in 1854 they were soon brought back together after the Boers declared the Orange Free State. Hostilities broke out in 1865 with the Boers besieging Thaba Bosiu a mountain stronghold that acted as the capital. King Moshoeshoe appealed to the British who agreed to make the country a British protectorate. Unlike the rest of South Africa therefore the region was brought under British control by diplomatic agreement, not conflict or settlement. The territory was ruled from Cape Colony, but mismanagement resulted in a rebellion in 1880-1 and an appeal for direct rule from London which was accepted in 1884.[1]  This has meant that Lesotho and South Africa despite both being controlled by the British were run separately. In turn this meant that when South Africa became a dominion in 1910 and was then granted equality between the dominions and Britain in 1931 Lesotho remained separate and under British, not South African control. When independence came in 1966 Lesotho therefore became an independent country.

Key terms:

Annexation (Latin ad, to, and nexus, joining) is the permanent acquisition and incorporation of some territorial entity into another geo-political entity (either adjacent or non-contiguous). Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size. The model of how the annexation is going to take place is not necessarily relevant to the debate but both parts can agree it will happen after a sovereign referendum by the people of Lesotho. Moreover, this debate will settle if the annexation is in favor of both countries and their population.

Mosotho is the demonym when referring to a single person from Lesotho while when talking about more than one person the word used is Basotho.

[1] The Lesotho Embassy in the United States of America, ‘About Lesotho’,


Annexation will allow the free movement of Basotho people, goods and services

For the Basotho in a landlocked country the free movement of their people is a right that is in large part dependent on the South African (SA) government rather their own national one. Its importance is shown by 40% of border crossings into South Africa being from Lesotho.  Acknowledging the fact that Lesotho is an enclave state surrounded by SA, the ability of people to move freely depends on whether they are allowed to enter SA or not. There is corruption at border posts and the number of crossings results in long queues and slow service; 63% of border crossers experience problems.[1] This is sometimes made even more difficult by SA government actions as before the World Cup in 2010 when border restrictions were tightened making it almost impossible for Basotho to leave their country.[2] This happened due to the detention of several Lesotho nationals after a spate of criminal activities along the border.

The same situation applies to trade. Lesotho is dependent on the trade with South Africa, even for goods that come from beyond South Africa as Lesotho has no port of its own most goods will have to be transported through South Africa. This dependency is rising. In 1980, Lesotho produced 80% of the cereals it consumed. Now it imports 70%.[3] Annexation would eliminate these borders boosting trade between the countries, helping to make both richer. In the best interest of Basotho is to be able to control and be listened to by the entity that is metaphorically and literally feeding them.  

[1] Crush, Jonathan, ‘The border within: The future of the Lesotho-South African international boundary’, Migration Policy Series No.26

[2] Patel, Khadija, Lesotho and South Africa: ‘Good fences make good neighbours’, 19 April 2013,

[3] Smith, Alex Duval, ‘Lesotho's people plead with South Africa to annex their troubled country’,, 6 June 2010


While the ability of Basotho people to travel abroad is something that we should take into consideration, we should also seek to understand the SA government intention to secure their territory. As a sovereign state that is primarily responsible towards its citizens, SA has the right and the duty to secure its borders in order to prevent any kind of security problems that might occur when people from a poor, underdeveloped country like Lesotho try to enter their premises. If SA is concerned about the security of its border with Lesotho how much less secure is it when the border disappears? On the other hand, progress regarding border control is already being made through bilateral cooperation and agreements. [1] Certainly, there are less drastic solutions, such as border-unions that permit the exact same advantages as annexation when it comes to borders.

[1] Magubane, Khulekani, ‘SA, Lesotho to ease border control’, Business Day Live, 22 April 2013,

The historical reasons for which the state of Lesotho exists are no longer relevant in a post-apartheid South Africa

The reason why Moshoeshoe, the leader of Lesotho, wished to become a British protectorate was because of the Boers of the Orange Free State was trying to take their land. In 1966, when the Kingdom of Lesotho gained its independence from Britain, it remained separate from SA as it had been a separate colony. Lesotho was under direct rule while South Africa was a dominion. There was no incentive to change at the point of independence because SA was ruled by the apartheid regime. Lesotho was a strong public opponent of the regime and granted a number of SA refugees’ political asylum. The African National Congress, the ruling party in SA since 1994, was founded in Lesotho. Moreover, during the struggle against apartheid, the ANC’s armed wing organized its guerilla units from the enclave.[1] We can firmly say that Lesotho vas a very important actor in a post-apartheid SA, but the times have changed. The ANC is now in power in South Africa and SA and Lesotho are closer together than ever before.

[1] Smith, 2010,


The Basotho people existed as a separate state for decades before colonization. There was a separate Basotho identity long before the instauration of the apartheid in SA. Their history and roots gives Lesotho an identity that is different from that of their only neighbors. That Lesotho never suffered under apartheid is in itself a big difference from South Africa where the legacy still looms large. Lesotho has taken measures to highlight their differences from South Africa; In 2013 Lesotho introduced national identification documents.[1]

[1] Tefo, Tefo, ‘Lesotho finally introduces national ID’, Public Eye, 5 July 2013,

Lesotho is in a dire condition and needs help from its closest ally

With about 40% of Basotho people living below the international poverty line[1], Lesotho needs urgent help both from the economic and social perspective. A third of the population is infected with HIV and in urban areas; about 50% of the women under 40 have the virus.[2] There is a major lack of funding and corruption in the system is halting any progress. The Kingdom of Lesotho is clearly unable to deal with its issues and should be annexed by SA. Annexation is the only way in which the SA government is going to care about this enclave territory. Give Basotho citizenship and the right to vote in elections and they will be taken into consideration. Give SA the power to control and they will assume the responsibility for pulling the Basotho out of poverty, giving them a better social system and a country in which they can thrive. A simple look at the GDP per capita of each state shows the potential benefit to Lesotho and ability of SA to deliver. While Lesotho is stable at $1,700 per capita, SA has a GDP of $10,700 per person. Only by giving them full responsibility of the territory, the SA government is going to step in and make the necessary change.

[1] Human Development Reports, United Nations Development Project

[2] The World Factbook, ‘Lesotho’,, 11 March 2014,


There is no guarantee that the SA government will indeed try to make a change after the integration of the Lesotho territory. The narrative is quite different in Europe for example where regions like Catalonia, Venice and Scotland are trying to secede because they do not feel the national government is addressing their problems as they should. Even if we agree that SA is the most powerful country in Sub-Saharan region and that they have more money that the Kingdom of Lesotho, there is no certainty that the money will be redirected toward that region. SA already has a lot of problems of its own. 

South Africa will gain influence, stability and a better image on the international stage

Bringing South Africa and Lesotho will benefit SA on the global stage. The move would be one to provide aid to a smaller state and provide stability. The dire conditions for the Basotho people are acknowledged by the UN and the Africa Union. Firstly, SA, by the annexation of Lesotho, will prove good intentions in creating a sustainable Sub-Saharan Africa. This will ultimately create a better image and a greater influence in the region if they choose to respond positively to the People’s Charter Movement in Lesotho[1], a social structure pleading for annexation. The movement, driven by trade unions, has collected 30,000 signatures in favor of their goal and is rising in popularity. Secondly the annexation will provide a boost for the South African Development Community and South African Customs Union by demonstrating the willingness of South Africa to integrate with poorer neighbours and take on some of the responsibility for them.

[1] Smith, 2010,


While any annexation would be mutually agreed there is no guarantee that the whole international community would see it positively; any resistance from groups within Lesotho and it could be a PR nightmare. Moreover the spin of it being a humanitarian gesture is reliant on it following through and improving conditions. If it succeeds then SA will likely be called upon to resolve other humanitarian situations in the region such as in Swaziland. 

Annexation is not needed where there is already extensive cooperation between the countries

Lesotho and South Africa already cooperate on a wide variety of issues. If we look at the example of the law system; the two systems are almost the same and all but one of the Justices on the Court of Appeal in Lesotho are South African jurists.[1] Moreover, there are at least four inter-governmental organizations that maximize the trade, help and social connections between the two states. Starting with the African Union, going on to the Southern African Development Community[2] that promotes socio-economic cooperation as well as political and security cooperation, moving to the Southern African Customs Union[3] and the Common Monetary Area. Lesotho is not only helped by SA but this is happening without them having to let go of their national identity and history. In much the same way as different nations, large and small, benefit from the EU so the countries of Southern Africa can benefit from some integration without the negative consequences of complete annexation with the loss of control that would bring.

[1] U.S. Department of State, ‘Lesotho (10/07)’, state.gov

[2] Southern African Development Community Official website

[3] ‘Continued economic reforms would attract more foreign investment’, World Trade Organisation, 25 April 2003,


Assuming the two countries are so well integrated, there should be no reason for not taking the last step that is the annexation of the territory. Furthermore, the current sovereignty of the Kingdom of Lesotho exists as a fiction rather than reality. The authorities are not able to provide and take care of the basic human needs of their people; there was a humanitarian crisis as recently as 2012 when a third of the population needed food aid after flooding.[1] Lesotho does not even have control over its own defence with South Africa having launched a military ‘humanitarian intervention’ in 1998 to save democracy but which was also about South African concerns over water.[2] Rather than permitting for the local government to loose its authority, annexation represents the short step towards real and sustainable development for the land-locked country.  

[1] Beukes, Suzanne, ‘Food crisis aggravates the already massive social challenges Lesotho faces’, unicef, 28 November 2012,

[2] Hedebe, Siyabonga Patrick, ‘South Africa’s Military intervention in Lesotho in 1998 – A critical overview’, academia.edu

A local, decentralized authority can provide better opportunities and solutions for Lesotho

With a population of only 2 million people the Basotho would not have the voice and the votes for legislative and executive authority in SA. South Africa’s population of 53million would swamp their voice. Moreover, keeping the local government in place provides a better option for the people in Lesotho as they are closer to their government than they would be in a bigger state. Lesotho needs a decentralized government that can respond to the wishes and needs of the people. This is something the SA government might not be able to provide it as they are trying to provide general solutions for all of its territory.[1] Lesotho is one of the leaders for democracy in Southern Africa[2]; joining South Africa would not provide an improvement in accountability. In Europe and even in South Africa, secession movements exists because people feel they are better represented in a smaller state as their vote is more important. This is the case with the king of the abaThembu who is seeking an independent state from the SA government. [3]

[1] ‘9 major problems facing South Africa - and how to fix them’, Leader, 18 July 2011,

[2] Jordan, Michael J., ‘Lesotho leads southern Africa in democracy’, globalpost, 7 June 2012,

[3]  ‘Angry king Dalindyebo seeks independent state’, City Press, 23 December 2009,


Of course, the local Lesotho authorities have a mandate to act upon the interest of Basotho, but the problem is that they are not able to do so; Lesotho is dependent on foreign aid. The state simply doesn’t have to money to fund a health system that could deal with the fact that 1 in 3 Basotho are infected with HIV. Moreover, the problems in SA and Lesotho are not that different. In SA, one in ten people have AIDS and a majority deal with poverty. Of course, economies of scale can deal better and cheaper with problems such as poverty and health issues because of their ability to provide more money, resources and expertise. The point about what kind of influence Basotho might have on the SA authorities is not entirely true. The National Council of Provinces, the upper house, gives each province ten delegates regardless of population size[1]; Lesotho would have an outsized influence.

[1] National Council of Provinces,, accessed 28/3/2014,

It is not in the interest of South Africa to annex a poor, underdeveloped country

It is not in South Africa’s interests to annex Lesotho. Lesotho would be a burden; it is poor, might cause instability, and has no resources as compensation. On a simple cost-benefit analysis made by the SA government they would clearly see they would have more responsibility towards the Basotho population but new resources to fulfil those responsibilities. South Africa has its own problems that it should be focusing on first. Poverty is officially at 52.3%[1] and unemployment is a great problem for South Africans; a quarter of the majority black workforce is unemployed.[2]Moreover, Only 40.2% of black infants live in a home with a flush toilet, a convenience enjoyed by almost all their white and Indian counterparts showing the inequality that still exists in the ‘rainbow nation’.[3] Why add more people under your protection when you can’t take care of your own?

[1] ‘Statement by Minister in The Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane, on the occasion of the launch of the Development Indicators 2012 Report’,, 20 August 2013,

[2]  Mcgroarty, Patrick, ‘Poverty Still Plagues South Africa's Black Majority’, The Wall Street Journal, 8 December 2013,

[3] Kielburger, Craig & Marc, ‘Why South Africa is Still Dealing With Segregation and Poverty’, Huffington Post, 18 December 2013,


The population in Lesotho might be suffering from poverty but this is not their fault but rather the result of the bad governance. Lesotho is investing 12% of its GDP in education and 85% of its population over 15 is literate. [1] This can provide an knowledgeable, smart workforce for SA which can help develop both countries. On the other hand, South Africa is also dependent on one resource from Lesotho and this is water. Over the past 25 years, a mutual, bilateral agreement has been made between the two sovereign states so that the Lesotho Highlands Water Project can provide SA with clean water. [2] Moreover, the textile industry in Lesotho is competitive and profitable. The industry still contributes close to 20 percent of Lesotho's annual gross domestic product, and is its largest employer.[3] Lesotho would clearly not just be a burden.

[1] The World Factbook, 2014,

[2] Ashton, Glenn, ‘A Case for Closer Integration between South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland?’, The South African Civil Society Information Service

[3] ‘LESOTHO: Textile industry gets a lifeline’, IRIN, 24 November 2011,


Ashton, Glenn, ‘A Case for Closer Integration between South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland?’, The South African Civil Society Information Service,

Beukes, Suzanne, ‘Food crisis aggravates the already massive social challenges Lesotho faces’, unicef, 28 November 2012,

‘Angry king Dalindyebo seeks independent state’, City Press, 23 December 2009,

Crush, Jonathan, ‘The border within: The future of the Lesotho-South African international boundary’, Migration Policy Series No.26,

Hedebe, Siyabonga Patrick, ‘South Africa’s Military intervention in Lesotho in 1998 – A critical overview’,,

‘LESOTHO: Textile industry gets a lifeline’, IRIN, 24 November 2011,

Jordan, Michael J., ‘Lesotho leads southern Africa in democracy’, globalpost, 7 June 2012,

Kielburger, Craig & Marc, ‘Why South Africa is Still Dealing With Segregation and Poverty’, Huffington Post, 18 December 2013,

‘9 major problems facing South Africa - and how to fix them’, Leader, 18 July 2011,

The Lesotho Embassy in the United States of America, ‘About Lesotho’,

Magubane, Khulekani, ‘SA, Lesotho to ease border control’, Business Day Live, 22 April 2013,

Mcgroarty, Patrick, ‘Poverty Still Plagues South Africa's Black Majority’, The Wall Street Journal, 8 December 2013,

National Council of Provinces,, accessed 28/3/2014,

Patel, Khadija, Lesotho and South Africa: ‘Good fences make good neighbours’, 19 April 2013,

‘Statement by Minister in The Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane, on the occasion of the launch of the Development Indicators 2012 Report’,, 20 August 2013,

Smith, Alex Duval, ‘Lesotho's people plead with South Africa to annex their troubled country’,, 6 June 2010,

Southern African Development Community Official website,

Tefo, Tefo, ‘Lesotho finally introduces national ID’, Public Eye, 5 July 2013,

Human Development Reports, United Nations Development Project,

U.S. Department of State, ‘Lesotho (10/07)’,,

The World Factbook, ‘Lesotho’,, 11 March 2014,

‘Continued economic reforms would attract more foreign investment’, World Trade Organisation, 25 April 2003,