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Lesotho

Anti-Chinese Feelings in Lesotho

Lesotho — Anti-Chinese Resentment Flares:

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
24 January 2008

Posted to the web 24 January 2008

Maseru

For 14 years, Mathabo Mabekhla was one of Lesotho’s most successful entrepreneurs. Her ladies’ clothing boutique sold dresses, blouses and slacks imported from neighbouring South Africa, and boasted a client base that included cabinet ministers and their wives.

But dwindling sales forced her to shut down last year, for which she blames the country’s growing community of Chinese retailers. “Chinese are selling very cheap and not good quality things, and they are killing Basotho businesses,” said Mabekhla, 59.

She now sells cigarettes and beaded jewellery on the sidewalk in the capital, Maseru. “The Chinese, they must go back home,” Mabekhla told IRIN. “We don’t want Chinese here.”
[more…]

When I was a kid growing up in the Maseru suburb of Qoaling, we would go to the Chinese plantations not too far from home. There they grew and sold rice and other things. I believe that their project was government financed, or somehow in tandem with a government undertaking. I recall no problem at that time.

There were not only Chinese immigrants but Italian (Mataliana), Indians (Makula) and others. And they were mostly traders and shopkeepers. No problems there either, as far as I can remember. At Peka where I went to high school, there was an Indian trader with whose children we went to school. Apart from the usual kids’ jokes (on those that are different), there were no problems to speak of. In the capital, Maseru, most fast food cafés, as we called them, like the famous Maseru Café, were run by Basotho of Italian descent: white people who were visibly different. No problem. So what is the matter now? Why are we saying, “We don’t want Chinese here,” something we never said to other immigrants?

To my knowledge, when the hard times bite, the immigrant is always the scapegoat. It is happening in France today (immigrants are being forcibly flown to their countries of origin), it has happened in Germany where the Turkish population there has been blamed for economic woes, and Idi Amin chased Indians out of Uganda because they ran most retail businesses there.

I think that Basotho who are suffering from economic disease are right to vent their anger. But I do not think that immigrants are the right targets of that anger. We, the Basotho, have lived for many years on money sent home by our immigrant brothers, fathers, uncles who worked in South Africa’s mines. True, our labour filled a gap, but the Chinese in Lesotho are not exactly vultures. They have provided a certain amount of income for suffering families, through factories or retail employment. If we want to blame someone for being poor, we should blame the government. Governments are elected to work for the populace, and when the populace suffers, those governments, and them alone, remain accountable.

Blaming and attacking the Chinese, or any other part of the population, is discrimination, and it’s wrong. There are lots of Basotho who live and work overseas, and there are other nationalities who live and work in Lesotho. That’s the way it is, and i’m sure we wouldn’t like it much if Basotho who live overseas were attacked in the same manner. Our solution lies in being innovative and entrepreneurial. If we can’t, then there’s something wrong with the way our country is being run, and that’s where we turn toward the government and start asking questions. Khotso, Pula, Nala.
By Rethabile

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5 Comments

  1. happy to have stumbled here. I lived in Nigeria for 16 months (oweri) when i was doing m first post doc…i had a ball chk me out one day, this is a examle THANK WE FREE

  2. acolyte

    Lets look at it from this angle, the local either has to make their own product and will be taxed heavily by the government while on the other hand due to low import tax foisted on the government the Chinese can import cheap products and sell them at half the price.
    Much as people love their country they shall go with their pockets and as a result of them not buying local there will be a knock on effect and jobs will be lost.
    Governments need to work so that local products are more affordable and this turns into more jobs and business and at the same time put hefty taxes on imported things that are sold cheaper at home, only then can the Chinese tsunami be stopped.

  3. I’m thinking along the same lines as Acolyte, Rethabile. What I hear in the quote from the woman who has been put out of business is not that she has a problem with Chinese people per se, but that she resents the practice of the Chinese being allowed to undercut her so that her economic well-being has been so greatly reduced. This is not just happening in Lesotho. Friends from Central American have told me that Chinese “entrepeneurs” appear literally overnight in vacant lots, set up a “store” in a small trailer of some kind with a bare lightbulb hung at the end of a cord, and sell low quality products so cheaply that others can’t compete. The resultant group dynamics has much more to do with run-amok multi-national capitalism than with immigrant status. Now that I see this is happening in Africa, too, I’m going to be vigilantly attention for what the greater implications of this practice are going to be.

  4. HERBERT

    Mathoba Mabekhla is not alone.
    From Nigeria to Columbia,From Spain to Egypt,From Liberia to Newzealand,From Sudan to Brasil the excesses of both the Chinese citizens and its government foreign policy is constituting a grave danger to the socio-economic stability of Nations.
    Unfortunately,we live in a world where politicians seldom tell the truth and the civil society on the hand remain adamant to speaking up.It is a hard fact that China is not a force for Stability in all of Africa.
    Armed with her economic prowess and military weaponry,the Chinese leaders finds cheap prey in the corrupt African Leaders whose primary aim is to perpetuate Power.China does not mingle in the internal affairs issue of another nation:This has remained her official stance on many burning issues such as Dafur.Where China has continued to provide arms in exchange for oil to the Sudanese government.
    What it all means is that China is only interested in what she can get QED.It is very easy to conclude the statement credited to Mathoba as just another of such comments we hear on the streets of France and other Western Nations aimed at immigrants.
    All across Africa,right there on African soil,Chinese employers are enslaving local employees,subjecting them to harsh and inhuman working conditions,low wages and sometimes months without payment.Now,Is this an anti-immigration issue?.
    Government alone cannot do everything.We must all pull forces together to librate our ourselfs from a life of continues struggle for survival.
    First it was the Arabs,then the West and today,it is China.
    HOW LONG SHALL IT TAKE US TO GET TO THE PROMISED LAND,OH AFRICANS?

  5. HERBERT

    Mathoba Mabekhla is not alone.
    From Nigeria to Columbia,From Spain to Egypt,From Liberia to Newzealand,From Sudan to Brasil the excesses of both the Chinese citizens and its government foreign policy is constituting a grave danger to the socio-economic stability of Nations.
    Unfortunately,we live in a world where politicians seldom tell the truth and the civil society on the hand remain adamant to speaking up.It is a hard fact that China is not a force for Stability in all of Africa.
    Armed with her economic prowess and military weaponry,the Chinese leaders finds cheap prey in the corrupt African Leaders whose primary aim is to perpetuate Power.China does not mingle in the internal affairs issue of another nation:This has remained her official stance on many burning issues such as Dafur.Where China has continued to provide arms in exchange for oil to the Sudanese government.
    What it all means is that China is only interested in what she can get QED.It is very easy to categorise the statement credited to Mathoba as just another of such comments we hear on the streets of France and other Western Nations aimed at immigrants.
    All across Africa,right there on African soil,Chinese employers are enslaving local employees,subjecting them to harsh and inhuman working conditions,low wages and sometimes months without payment.Now,Is this an anti-immigration issue?.
    Government alone cannot do everything.We must all pull forces together to librate our ourselfs from a life of continues struggle for survival.
    First it was the Arabs,then the West and today,it is China.
    HOW LONG SHALL IT TAKE US TO GET TO THE PROMISED LAND,OH AFRICANS?