Writes Tjonane Matla
In our last publication we scrutinised in detail the relationship of the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) with BKB Limited. The scrutiny and analysis was not only in our publication, but consistently other media houses in Lesotho covered the issue. Furthermore Mo-Afrika FM broadcasted a number of developmental politics programs wherein Khotsang Moshoeshoe and Nkone Phiri in the spirit of giving guidance to the Government of Lesotho, described exactly in the ‘ins and outs’ of the wool and mohair industry, contrary to what the Government was propagating.
In 2012 the then Minister of Trade, Industry Co-operatives and Marketing and his Deputy summoned the LNWMGA Chairman to the State House, where the two Ministers wanted Prime Minister Thabane to talk to Chairman Thinyane to encourage him to sign a deal with the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) CEO Joshua Setipa to set up a scouring plant in Lesotho. Thinyane bluntly refused stating reasons to the Prime Minister Thabane whose response was that; ‘banna ‘na ha ke na nku, ke holetse Maseru, ha ke tsebe na e hlokomeloa joang, joale ha le nqobella ho qobella barui ba li nku ho saena, khili! Le ba tla, ba tle ba re ke ‘na ea ba lihetseng?”
The words translated mean; “I have no sheep and do not know how to rear one, as I grew up in Maseru. When you push me to make the farmers sign this deal against their will, you are technically making me to make a mistake such that when things go wrong, they shall blame me”. Our intelligence reveals that the Ministers were immediately dismissed after a meeting that clearly did not even last five minutes, after Thinyane defended his case to Prime Minister Thabane and Thinyane was off hook.
Our very reliable sources consistently revealed that the drama to close the BKB paying account at Standard Lesotho Bank was somehow not related to claims made by authorities but awkwardly an attempt of state capture by those who might have personally benefited one way or the other from the so called Eastern block investor.
This hypothesis could be supported by the fact that after Maseru Dawning (Pty) Ltd had filed its court order applications we heard the Minister of Small Business tabling an export ban against wool and mohair commodities in the National Assembly of Lesotho. The result of which would have been in support of application of Maseru Dawning before the Courts. Although the Ministry of Small Business was a respondent tothe case filed by Maseru Dawning, the situation could actually make some people think that the Ministry did not really appreciate its position in the matter due to possible conflict of interests.
As if that was not enough, the day Advocate Selimo, of Sello Mafatle Attorneys, challenged and reversed the Maseru Dawning court order that closed the BKB bank account, the same authority made another announcement that they have now opened the account, not due to the failed application but citing the emotive grounds of not frustrate the farmers who needed to pay school fees for their children.
The 40,000 wool and mohair growers receive their annual revenue, legally hard earned, through the BKB paying account and for there to be reference to the account financing terrorism gave them great reputational concern and financial inconvenience.
BKB Limited had been trading with Basotho farmers for over thirty years, under very limited and compromised legal framework as Lesotho had really been struggling with development and not evolving its own legislative framework to meet and enable the evolving industry.
It has been so many years that most of us have been lobbying the Lesotho authorities publicly and privately to consider revisiting some of the obsolete legislation and policies, specifically in the agricultural sector, but to date we still have colonial era legislation and policies governing the sector. It must be noted that some of these frustrating pieces of legislation were designed to enable a few farmers in an non-indigenised sector in a colonial environment, and could not possibly be relevant and enabling in a post independent Lesotho.
For example, the Wool and Mohair Fund which was commonly known as revolving fund, had its own regulations that were set by the British during the colonial administration, meaning before Lesotho got independence. The contribution formula was that the farmers and the government contribute equally to the revolving fund. The wool growers’ contribution was collected by the wool and mohair broker and paid to the Government of Lesotho (Livestock Products Marketing Services – LPMS) where the Government would then contribute its share. The funds would in turn be dispensed by the Government to meet the needs of farmers nationally.
According to LNWMGA Manager Lefu Lehloba, for several years during the British Administration and early post-independence period, the funds would be used to procure veterinary drug and vaccinations for small-stock. Lehloba further pointed out that somewhere in the late 1980s to 90s the Government of Lesotho stopped contributing into the revolving fund, although they retained control of the fund and the resulting situation was that the Government was only able to procure sheep scab dip or vaccinations, while the rest of the vaccinations farmers had to now self-finance. The resulting inequity causing more division in the sector.
Director of Field Services in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security – Ntitia Tuoane likewise confirmed this history. He furthermore elaborated that the funds were terribly misused and no proper accountability of funds was practiced at LPMS. He moreover said that the reason why the wool and mohair growers were advised by amongst other people himself, to change their mohair broker from CMW to BKB, was due to the fact that there was no proper way of calculating and accounting for the dipping levy with CMW as compared to BKB, that had good traceable and transparent accountability processes for the funds that were being handed over to LPMS.
BKB’s first episode in Lesotho
Any organisation’s goodwill is built by not only its culture and values, but also its level of discipline in respecting and rendering quality services to its customers. Most companies call their customers Queens and Kings. Some really live up to that while others do not. When LNWMGA was desperate, and it was clear that their dipping levy contributions were being mismanaged and enriching certain individuals in the government. LNWMGA elected to stop paying their contribution to Lesotho Government – LPMS but straight to LNWMGA bank account, in line with the advocating of Lehloba. In that climate, the Government of Lesotho appointed BKB to be Basotho wool grower’s broker back in the day.
Mokoenehi Thinyane revealed that this move attracted a court challenge from the Department of Livestock Services, as that department retaliated by refusing to issue veterinary certificates that declare the wool and mohair disease free or certified disease free for export purposes.
According to a law expert, practicing and lecturing in the National University of Lesotho, BKB at that time could have been sued by the Government of Lesotho if it was registered and operating wool exchange processes as a Lesotho company, though that could have been a waste of public funds as the Government of Lesotho had defaulted in contributing into the revolving fund years earlier, and could be argued to have lost their locus standing.
The Minister’s ill advice at the end of the day never saw a day in the courts of law.
How was the problem solved?
While tracing back how the problem was solved, Lehloba referred us to Hon Thabang Nyeoe who Chaired a committee that challenged the former Minister of Agriculture and Food Security – Hon Ralechate ‘Mokose. In our telephonic interview with Nyeoe, he could not remember the facts right but shall go to the National Assembly archives and furnish us with the details, however at time of going to press this was still pending.
At the same time, we met with a couple of Economic Cluster Committee members of the National Assembly of Lesotho, who made us very much aware that what the Government of Lesotho was seeking to create a monopoly for wool brokerage through Maseru Dawning (Pty) Ltd, which simply did not have their support. They furthermore stated that the farmers should choose for them-selves where they wanted to sell their wool, and at this juncture the Wool Exchange model would be best for Lesotho.
The current war
It is very unfortunate that the Basotho Nation appears to enjoy repeating the same mistakes, and every time the country moves 100 steps forward, one individual, in a split second, takes the Nation 200 steps back.
Our publication is very much aware that the dipping levy saga, created negative energy within the beneficiaries and when the tables changed, the beneficiaries saw their gap and become advisers. Unfortunately every war has causalities and in this case who are the victims? I believe we have actually given a hind, and answered the question
BKB are they financing terrorism and money-laundering tax evaders?
Click – click !!! There is a writing on the wall, someone was trying his luck. The farmers are looking forward to the appointment of the Judge of Appeal Court, and strongly believe in his intergrity!