Catholic Bishops’ Commission Entity in Lesotho Educating “people on the move” on Rights

Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace Launching of Coordinated Advocacy Project in Maseru border, Lesotho. Credit CCJP Lesotho

An entity of the Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Lesotho is reaching out to migrants and refugees with information about “their legal requirements and their rights”.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Mining and Social Justice Officer of CCJP in Lesotho spoke about the education of “people on the move” that is being realized through a recently initiative dubbed, “Coordinated Advocacy Project”.

“We launched the project at the Maseru border which is one of the busiest and biggest borders in Lesotho,” Mamokhantso Refiloe Nkune said about the Coordinated Advocacy Project that was launched last week, on March 31.

On the day the initiative was launched, “we managed to reach out to over 50 people, informing them about their legal requirements and their rights as migrants and refugees”, Ms. Nkune said during the Tuesday, April 5 interview.

“We were able to distribute booklets and flyers about the rights of people on the move. The brochures contained information about the documents needed to cross the border”, she further said.


Through advocacy, the initiative has the overall objective of providing “pastoral care for people on the move at the border crossing,” the official of CCJP in Lesotho said about the Coordinated Advocacy Project that is being rolled out under the theme, “Know Your Rights Before Crossing the Border”.

The initiative that is expected to last for a year has been spearheaded by members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) and targets people arriving at the borders of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and South Africa, Ms. Nkune told ACI Africa April 5.

The Basotho CCJP official went on to highlight factors behind the reality of migrants and refugees. 

She said, “Lesotho is a landlocked country; we cannot go anywhere without going through South Africa first.”

“There are many reasons why people decide to leave Lesotho,” Ms. Nkune said, and explained, “Unemployment is very high presently and it contributes to human trafficking and illegal (border) crossing.”

More in Africa

Illegal border crossing has resulted in a number of challenges including loss of life, and women being exposed to sexual abuse, she told ACI Africa April 5, and added, “There are guys who call themselves ‘butterfly’; they help people cross the river, and often change the initial price when they are in the middle of the river.”

“And if you are a man and cannot afford, its either they are robbed or left stranded in the middle of the river,” Ms. Nkune further said, adding that for women, they “are forced to offer sexual favors and if they refuse, they are left to drown.”

Some of the people on the move, she said, “cannot afford to pay for a passport, so they opt to cross illegally into South Africa by crossing the river; and if they do have a passport, they cannot afford to return to Lesotho at the end of every 30 days to renew the visa given at the border.”

The CCJP official in Lesotho explained the financial challenges around crossing the border saying, “to stay in South Africa for either work purposes or to study, one needs to go through some legal requirements including a police clearance and a fee of about 900 rands (US$61).”

In the April 5 interview, Ms. Nkune acknowledged with appreciation the participation of various organization in the March 31 launch of the Coordinated Advocacy Project.


“Various organizations and government officials attended the launch on Thursday at Maseru border,” she said.

“The government of Lesotho is quite happy,” the CCJP official in Lesotho told ACI Africa, and added, “Representatives from the home affairs ministry, law enforcement officers, and migration officers attended the launch.”

Some 10 CCJP members have been trained to monitor borders during the upcoming Easter Weekend as many Basotho will be returning home for the long weekend, the native of Lesotho further said.

“We are really trying to target the Easter holidays, because we know that there will be a lot of influx of Basotho coming into the country,” she explained in reference to her compatriots working in South Africa who often return home during long weekends.

“So, we'll be quite busy monitoring all the borders throughout the country, sensitizing people on the move about the legal requirements and their rights”, Ms. Nkune said.

(Story continues below)

More volunteers are to be trained to be part of the Coordinated Advocacy Project from the end of April, she further said during the April 5 interview with ACI Africa.

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.