I am delighted to present my credentials today on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as her High Commissioner. And to pass on the best wishes of the Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Government, and the British people.
I would also like to congratulate Lesotho on its appointment last year to the SADC organ on Politics Defence and Security. I hope that the Kingdom will be able to play a key role in helping other countries in the region to match the standards of democracy and accountability that Lesotho has demonstrated.
The relationship between Britain and Lesotho continues to be an important one. The links between our two Kingdoms, have deep historical roots, but remain vibrant and relevant today, spanning a variety of government to government links, and a multitude of programmes and exchanges between people and organisations in both countries.
Although the UK no longer has a physical High Commission in Maseru, this does not lessen the importance we place on our bilateral relationship. Our engagement remains strong. My Deputy High Commissioner and other members of the team continue to visit frequently, to Maseru and beyond, and I look forward to doing the same.
I was delighted to be able to visit last month when the Queen’s Baton Relay came to Lesotho as part of the celebrations in advance of the Commonwealth Games which will be held in Glasgow later this year. From aerobics in the mall to herdboys in the mountains, the excitement and enthusiasm was amazing. I was very pleased to see that the UK’s prestigious Times newspaper carried a picture of the baton travelling through your stunning mountains.
I was glad to learn that, Mr Simmonds, the UK Minister with responsibility for the relationship with Africa, was able to visit Lesotho in March last year. This visit recognised the very significant democratic achievement which Lesotho’s peaceful 2012 elections and transition represents.
And Mr Simmonds looks forward to welcoming your Prime Minister to London next month, on his visit to promote international investment in Lesotho.
Properly handled, foreign investment creates jobs and wealth. We are pleased to see Lesotho competing for a slice of this action. I hope that, together with your High Commissioner in the UK, we can work to encourage more British businesses to give serious consideration to investing in Lesotho.
Last August a delegation from the UK’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association also visited the kingdom. The British delegation included members of the upper and lower chambers of the British Parliament, who held detailed discussions with their Basotho counterparts, and look forward to developing further links.
The UK provides over 150 million Maloti each year to Lesotho, through multi- lateral organisations, regional programmes, debt relief and international NGOs.
Through DFID’s Southern Africa regional office, Lesotho is a partner in three regional programmes: two programmes in the health sector assist with the prevention of HIV/AIDS in vulnerable populations, and with access to medicines. In support of the SADC’s regional action plan on water, support to Lesotho is provided through the ORASECOM Regional River Basin Organisation. Lesotho is also part of multi-country programmes on gender equality through DFID’s centrally-managed civil society projects.
We are keenly aware of the challenges the Kingdom faces as a result of climate change. Tackling climate change and working towards a fair and ambitious international agreement by 2015 are top priorities for the British Government. We therefore welcome and support the role Lesotho has played, as previous Chair of the Least Developed Countries group.
I would also like to draw attention to our Chevening Scholarship scheme which enables high calibre Basotho graduates to apply for post graduate training in the UK. This is an extremely competitive and prestigious programme. We are pleased that there is currently an excellent Chevening Scholar from Lesotho, Ms Amohelang Vivian Lekalakala, studying Migration Studies at Sussex University.
In addition to the government to government links, we are also proud of the numerous links between the people of Lesotho and the people of the UK which exist independent of government: the many, and vibrant, non-governmental organisations, exchanges, links, partnerships and charities that bring British and Basotho citizens together.
Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) has been sending skilled volunteers to placements in Lesotho for many years. Sentebale, led by Prince Seeiso and Prince Harry, is continuing to expand its work with grassroots organisations providing care and assistance to herdboys and other needy and vulnerable children. Kick 4 Life, started by two British brothers, has won several awards for its innovative programmes in Lesotho teaching HIV awareness and life skills through the medium of football. The Wales-Lesotho Link organises exchanges in the fields of health and education, sending students and teachers from Lesotho to Wales, and bringing teachers and health professionals from Wales to work in Lesotho. The Lesotho-Durham Link runs a variety of programmes, including residential camps for orphans and vulnerable children, climate change clubs in primary schools, and HIV/AIDS peer education courses. The Malealea Development Trust, in partnership with the UK organisation Connecting Communities, has organised regular visits from young people from the UK and their teachers and parents, to spend time working with communities in the Malealea Valley. And there are many more.
Your Majesty, I and my team at the High Commission in Pretoria look forward to working closely with your Government, and meeting a wide range of political interlocutors, representatives of civil society, the business community, media and other sectors.
On a personal note – I look forward to learning more about your mountain Kingdom, and bringing my family here also to enjoy the peace and beauty of your scenery, Lesotho’s fascinating history and culture, and the warmth and friendliness of your people.
I am honoured and proud to present my credentials to you today.
Kea leboha (thank you)
Khotso, pula, nala (Peace, rain, prosperity)