Ad-hoc committee observing the Wool Testing Bureau
(WTB) sample grabbing at the BKB warehouse in PE.
Writes: Tjonane Matla and Tshepo Heqoa
The Ad-hoc committee of the National Assembly of the Parliament of Lesotho had the privilege of attending an open-cry auction system at The Exchange in Port Elizabeth where buyers bid and contend for wool through auction until the true market value is attained through the highly competitive pricing model. The mission of the Ad-hoc committee was commissioned at enhancing a deeper understanding of how the wool trading processes factually takes place internationally and to analyse and compare that to the highly contested Government of Lesotho current portrayed position as the “best localization method aimed at optimization”.
A brief background
The formation of the Parliamentary Ad-hoc committee followed a motion moved by a Former Deputy Prime Minister Mothejoa Metsing (MP). Since the National Assembly could no longer manage to disallow the regulations as per National Assembly standing orders, only one feasible option was to settle for a parliamentary committee that would investigate the fibre industry before the new regulations and then compare such with the situation after the regulations were put in place. On the 10th of June 2019, the Members of Parliament in the National Assembly of Lesotho voted in a motion to establish an Ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee that would look into the policy on the country’s wool-and-mohair industry as a whole, following an outcry by the affected farmers who were forced not to export their fibre withersoever they wished save through a Chinese brokerage company called Maseru Dawning (Pty) Ltd.
On the 13th of June 2019, the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) submitted a petition to the National Assembly of the Parliament of Lesotho to suspend Legal Notice No.65 of 2018 that prohibits the export of the wool and mohair as the Commission of Inquiry (ad-hoc) takes place. This petition was submitted through the biggest demonstration walk the country has ever witnessed. Farmers took it upon themselves to transport themselves from the remotest areas in the country to conglomerate at the Parliament of Lesotho in Maseru.
On the 27th of June 2019, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane then appeared to give into pressure when he temporarily lifted the controversial ban. Thabane informed the press conference that the government was giving the farmers a grace period of three months to sell their wool and mohair to any market of their choice. However, it should be there has since never been a single export of the wool and mohair fibres, as no farmer nor trader had been awarded the required export permits from the government itself to date.
The Difference among the brokerage companies
According to the new regulations, “a holder of an export licence shall not export wool and mohair unless it is prepared, brokered, and auctioned in Lesotho”. But IS Lesotho ready, informed and prepared for this step with its world-class but highly limited quantities of fibre and infrastructure?
In the meantime, the Maseru Dawning Trading (Pty) Ltd, a company owned by the disparaged ‘Second in Command in the line of State Capture Vampire’ Chinese businessman network in Lesotho Stone Shi, who operates the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre, was the only company granted a license to broker and auction wool and mohair in Lesotho. A monopoly that was not only condemned by the local farmers in Lesotho but even internationally. According to very reliable sources, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is alleged to be putting pressure on the Kingdom of Lesotho to reverse the regulations so that the Lesotho wool trade re-joins the international system as most of China’s buyers actually prefer to buy from trusted and reliable systems approved by the International Wool and Textile Organisation (IWTO).
The readers might probably remember that back in April 2019, the Editor of the Silo Magazine, Tjonane Matla was in Venice at the IWTO 88th Congress where after his presentation on the then status quo on wool and mohair industry, four Chinese buyers approached him and expressed their opinions on the Lesotho situation. It is therefore believed that those Chinese buyers must have pressurized their government to pressure the Lesotho Government to do away with the monopoly and take the open cry method. Grapevine says that the pressure hit the frustrated Minister of Finance very hard, as he was not getting financial deals on loans and grants from international partners and he had to take the bull by the horn and personally meet some of the brokers with a view to convince them to register in Lesotho to rescue his situation.
Back at home, Stone Shi was in and out of the High Court, on front page of newspapers and accused of fraud and forced liquidation of companies in China and Australia. There were more battles and protests by farmers on different media houses. It is saddening to report that Lesotho had never reported collapse of the wool and mohair industry, but recently there were reports that left the once self-sufficient 50,000 farmers destitute due to delayed payments, and a payment system that farmers have condemned and called a rip-off.
WTB Managing Director Wian Heath presenting to
the Ad-hoc committee shortly before touring the lab in PE.
The licences issued against own regulations
As the ad-hoc committee was busy discovering the truth behind what could be recorded as Phorishi lies in the National Assembly of Lesotho. While the visit was taking place in Port Elizabeth. It is again reliably alleged that the pressure mounted to the Government of Lesotho made the Minister of Small Business, Co-operatives and Marketing Chalane Phori issue brokage licences against his own regulations. The regulations, for instance, state clearly how much space is needed, but in this case he who is the custodian of the legislation violated his own art work. Five brokers were given brokerage licenses to trade with wool and mohair in Lesotho on the 14th of August 2019. These companies are BKB, OVK, Frasers Lesotho, Maluti Wool and Mohair, and Highlands Veterinary Services. But how these companies will conduct business is still unclear even to themselves.
The brokerage companies need to be recognised globally with a test certificate from a recognised Wool testing Bureau. Thus far reports from The South African Wool Testing Bureau and South African Wool and Mohair Buyers Association (SAWAMBA) reveal that Maseru Dawning does not have a test certificate but rather a report of a guided test. Wool from such a broker can be bought with the lowest prices because of many risks involved and if the buyers would dare take such a risk they said. The South African Wool and Mohair Testing Bureau (WTBSA) requires that its staff and machinery be present to facilitate the proper sampling of the wool and the mohair. They said they do not rely on hand picked samples as they are often not reliable to give accurate results of the bales they should represent. This sampling technique had been the one used by Maseru dawning due to the lack of Infrastructure hence forth knowledge of the industry.
Parliamentarians at CMW warehouse in Port Elizabeth.
The ad-hoc Committee
The ad-hoc committee members are; Kimetso Mathaba, Motlohi Maliehe, Likopo Mahase, Ntlhoi Motsamai, Selibe Mochoboroane, Teboho Sekata, Thulo Mahlakeng, Limpho Tau, Vincent Malebo, ‘Mapulumo hlao, Thuso Litjobo and Thabang Kholumo, Mohapi Mohapinyane, Tšeliso Kalake, Kose Makoa, Tlokotsi ‘Manyoko and ‘Marapelang Malefane.