Writes : ‘Makarabo Mats’umunyane
All Lesotho wool and mohair growers are now to sell their wool and mohair within boarders at Thaba-Bosiu. This came as a result of the new Regulation on wool and mohair marketing and trade that was passed in Parliament in August 2018.
After the passing of the Regulation in the National Assembly, the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA), in multiple endeavours failed in their plea to be allowed to trade their fibre with the broker they have been working with for a period of over 40 years.
The company that is responsible for wool and mohair marketing and selling is Maseru Dawning which is currently the only company which is known to hold a broker’s license from the Ministry of Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing.
At present, all wool sheds and independent traders have sent their fibre to Thaba-Bosiu where the auctions were said to commence from the 20th November to 22nd November, 2018.The chairman of LNWMGA, Mr Mokoenihi Thinyane told the Silo that they have decided as the association to send their fibre to Thaba-Bosiu.
The Association has a pending court case where they applied to challenge the new Regulation of wool and mohair trade of 2018. The Association said they reached this decision because they are law-abiding citizens and if the law is passed, they can do nothing but abide by the law.
Mr Thinyane said, on behalf of the farmers, they came to this decision after battling with the issue for a very long time since the beginning of 2018. Mr Thinyane also pointed out that they also had to take heed to the farmers’ needs.
Majority of the wool and mohair growers depend only on the income from wool and mohair sales as they have no other income streams.
He said that since they have mohair stored in warehouses and starving farmers, they see no possibility of the controversy being solved soon. It is the best solution so far to surrender to the Regulation so that farmers sell their fibre and get their income as soon as possible. This decision came after the LNWMGA court case that had been applied for against the Regulation was moved to March, 2019.
On the other hand, Development for Peace Education (DPE) called a meeting on the 24th October, 2018 where all stakeholders in the wool and mohair industry were invited to engage in an open discussion regarding the whole saga.
Among the parties that were present were; LNWMGA, Lesotho Cabinet representatives, the opposition representatives, independent wool and mohair traders, BKB, Maseru Dawning and many others including the media.
In this meeting, each stakeholder was a given a platform to give its stance on the prevailing circumstances.
The Minister of small businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing, Chalane Phori, when giving the Government’s stance, said that what they did was to protect Basotho from their previous broker BKB.
He further said that the farmers are going to get the highest sales that the country has ever seen as the deductions that were charged by BKB are now dealt away with.
When adding to this, Mr Manama who works for Maseru Dawning said on the previous sales that they had, one of the farmers got M1 million income for his wool.
However, no proof was granted to show whether this claim is true as the Minister said that the documents contain confidential information.
LNWMGA representatives also stated their opinion and what they really wished to be granted in their business.
Mr Thinyane then said finally they have been engaging in talks with the Ministers and they have reached a common ground regarding fibre selling and marketing.
Other issues have not been settled such as the insurance for the wool that is at Thaba-Bosiu. Apparently, some wool encountered with rain water and got spoilt during transportation, and usually with the previous broker, the farmers still got their income for any wool that had been destroyed.
The farmers were worried that their fibre is unprotected and they will not be compensated for any harm since BKB used to pay insurance and later deduct insurance charges from wool sales.
The general manager of the wool section at BKB, Isaak Stats, also denied any claims of the company trading illegally in Lesotho.
BKB was alleged to be owing the Lesotho Government M 1.4 billion in taxes. A case that Stats showed that they had no knowledge of owing that amount of tax because they are following all the laws and regulations that govern tax regulation.
Furthermore the claims were made in January but up to date no proof or case had been filed even upon BKB’s request through legal representation.
It is reported that auctions started at Thaba-Bosiu on the 20th but many people were told to leave the place as they will not see anything due to the auction being on internet. Controversially, we heard differentcomments on the nature of the auction. The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Small businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing, Lerata Petlane on Thaha-meso, on Lesotho Television said that the auction was going to be online.
On the other hand, on Seboping, Radio Lesotho, while the programs were running concurrently, the Director, of the very same department, Lekhooe Makhate said the fibre was going to be sold on floor auction
Allegations and media reports earlier disclosed that Stone Shi failed to pay for wool sampling service earlier this year at the Wool Testing Bureau of South Africa (WTBSA), therefore WTBSA had pronounced itself as not going to entertain any further service for Maseru Dawning.
We therefore wonder if the fibre that was auctioned was tested at all.
In the mentioned DPE forum, Maseru Dawning made very unbelievable claims, but we are yet to see if there is indeed any future in the whole saga.
While we cannot even freely access the results of the auction, should we trust that the growers will get what they were promised (which is the highest sales and income)?