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Lesotho

About Lesotho

The Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa. It has a population slightly over two million. Its capital and largest city is Maseru.

Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. About 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day.

The country is economically linked to South Africa. The economy of Lesotho is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and mining, and depends heavily on inflows of workers’ remittances and receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The majority of households subsist on farming. The formal sector employment consist of mainly the female workers in the apparel sector, the male migrant labour, primarily miners in South Africa for 3 to 9 months and employment in the Government of Lesotho (GOL). The western lowlands form the main agricultural zone. Almost 50% of the population earn income through informal crop cultivation or animal husbandry with nearly two-thirds of the country's income coming from the agricultural sector.

Water and diamonds are Lesotho's significant natural resources. Water is utilized through the 21-year, multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project(LHWP), under the authority of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority. The project commenced in 1986. Completion of the first phase of the project has made Lesotho almost completely self-sufficient in the production of electricity and generated approximately $70 million in 2010 from the sale of electricity and water to South Africa.

Lesotho is in the process of implementing their advocacy campaign to establish an effective alcohol policy in the Kingdom.

Advocacy campaign

The Alcohol Policy Alliance of Lesotho embarked on an advocacy campaign in June 2013. The key aim is to lobby government stakeholders to review and pass the proposed alcohol policy into law.

The alliance began its campaign to change Lesotho’s alcohol law by doing a survey. Interviews were held with different community leaders groups including chiefs, district administrators, youth leaders, senior officers in government ministries and the licensing board. The audience was broad and included representatives of people living with HIV, the elderly, orphaned and vulnerable children, farmers and alcohol business owners on camera. The research focused on alcohol availability, accessibility and affordability including main concerns to do with alcohol.  Interviews were became a survey video, used as a tool during the campaign.

Stakeholder engagement

The alliance met with a number of stakeholders as part of the lobbying process with discussions held at all levels of the community. Others were open to reducing accessibility however others raised concerns.

These included:

  • The realization that abuse by young people impacts negatively on the country’s development and good strategies were needed to implement the policy
  • The proposed 21 years old age limit was queried as 18 years old, youth can get a driver’s license, vote, and get married? The alliance clarified health concerns for young people who drink under the age of 21
  • Some Lesotho Correctional Services staff thought increasing the age and restricting places of drinking was against human rights
  • Participant highlighted a local saying, supported by posters, that it is better to drink beer than milk as a man may grow udders
  • A popular beer brand had set up a congratulatory birthday message for his majesty the King. Participants realized that the billboard, although supporting the royal birthday, could be construed that his majesty is a supporter of the brand. The corporate company rather than the specific brand should have branded the billboard.

A meeting was held with members of the Health and Social Development Commission of the Lesotho Council of Nongovernmental Organizations (LCN). Members feedback on the survey findings. A commitment was made by the committee to support the campaign in their respective constituencies. Members also signed the petition to government.

This engagement opened up debate and discussion around alcohol related issues in Lesotho/ The concerns raised also gave the alliance a framework of which issues will be further researched.

Policy development

Consultations were held with various government departments including the Ministry of Health, Tourism, Trade, Planning. Other nongovernmental organizations and the media were present.

It was agreed that the different ministries had to review their policies particularly with relation to alcohol advertising and marketing. Policies had to be aligned within the different ministries. The draft policy current lies with the office of communicable diseases.

Consultations continued with the Social Cluster Portfolio Committee. The session brought the issue to the parliamentary table with members agreeing that policy and messaging should be reviewed. Some of the discussions included: 

  • Developing interventions to address alcohol abuse, especially for young people.
  • Engaging security forces who have an influence to spread the message.
  • Securing parents’ commitment to change behaviour. Discourage parents from buying alcohol on behalf of their children. This is something that parents regularly do.
  • Raising the drinking age to 30 years and not 21-years-old
  • Discourage youth from resorting to alcohol by saying the reason is that they are unemployed and therefore bored

The members also signed the petition, pledging their support for the campaign and increase the pace to get the proposed policy changes into law. The advocacy campaign was encouraged to hold public hearing on the matter with support from the Social Cluster.

The campaign is moving forward with further research and increased lobbying to review policies.

The Petition

Petition to the Hon. Minister of Health to pledge to pass the Public Health Focused Evidence Based Lesotho National Alcohol Policy and its translation into law.

NOTING:

  1. Increased alcohol consumption among young people which damages their brain development;
  2. The unacceptable high levels of public drinking that leads to alcohol abuse, crime, violence, indecency and disorderly conduct in Lesotho;
  3. The uncontrolled mushrooming of liquor outlets in close proximity to schools, churches, households and others which are contravention to the law;
  4. The unregulated production and sales of home brew; and
  5. Unregulated alcohol advertising that influences increase in alcohol consumption leading to increased health costs, road deaths and traffic accidents.


WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, DEMAND:
The passing of the Lesotho National Alcohol Policy and its speedy translation into law with the following as stated in the policy statements:

  1. Increase minimum drinking age from 18 to 21 years-of-age.
  2. Total ban on drinking in public.
  3. No sales of alcohol within 0.5km of existing healthcare establishments, schools, places of worship, government offices and public transport stations.
  4. When deciding to grant or refuse a license the liquor licensing body will take into consideration matters raised by police or local officers and objections raised by the public.
  5. To have regulated brewing of alcohol and reduce production and sale of illegal alcohol.