Lesotho kills her own wool and mohair sector

Writes Tjonane Matla

On Friday the 4th of May 2018, The Government of Lesotho published Volume 63, Legal Notice No: 37 Agricultural Marketing on Wool and Mohair Licensing – Regulations 2018. Consequently, in Seotlong Magazine Program interview with Thapelo Mabote of Lesotho Television, the Minister of Small Business, Co-operatives and Marketing Chalane Phori said the regulations were made to protect the Chinese Investor who was robbed by the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) in Lesotho Wool Centre deal!

It should be remembered that late last year a Chinese Businessman and Director of Maseru Dawning commonly known by nickname ‘Stone’, applied for a court order in the High court of Lesotho which resulted into banning of exporting Lesotho’s wool to Wool Exchange in Port Elizabeth through BKB broker. Simultaneously BKB’s Standard Lesotho Bank’s paying account was frozen by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) with unfound allegations of money laundering and terrorism which were reversed in the High Court of Lesotho by BKB attorneys. As if it was not enough the less self-cautious Minister of Small Business was later reported by Lesotho times and Sunday Express to have said that he was the one who instructed the LMPS to freeze the BKB account.

Why so keen?

It might be a painful truth, but the fact remains that some of the Lesotho political parties have been alleged to have ‘blessers’ in some of the international companies in exchange of Basotho soul. The earlier media reports few years ago were of an Israeli company Nikuv which was to supply Lesotho with national identification documents and passports, followed by the Gupta diplomatic passport saga.

It is therefore not rocket science to be able to apply a simple mathematics of time series which is extrapolation. If one is able to follow the trend, believe you me, the graph puts it that Maseru Dawning, a company that had co-invested (25% of authorised share capital) in Wool Centre property development had not disclosed or surrendered all its liquid funds that were meant for investment in the Thaba-Bosiu project. Instead the funds were swallowed by certain vulture ministers who are, to make matters worse, reported to have acquired livestock farms in South Africa’s Free State Province, so as to supply the monopoly company they have protected in Lesotho.

It is of paramount importance to also disclose that, the dice further reveal that certain political parties are in serious budget deficit, therefore need to milk foreign direct investors’ couple of US Dollars in six digits for mobilising internal campaigns ahead of their NASREC conferences due very soon. It is therefore believed that, it is for that reason that the honourable ministers of His Majesty’s cabinet are prepared to harm their own Basotho against all odds, as they might have seen what some of the Chinese Businessmen can do when their money is taken and no results. It is believed that this, they could have seen an example of one of the Government Agencies CEO who collapsed only to recover in a South African hospital after he was left alone with a Chinese businessman in his office after hours. Not much was reported about this matter, but what he did when he came back from hospital remained a mystery as he went against a decision by the tender panel, only to get a free and express entry to National Assembly Public Accounts Committee.

Legal Notice!

As it had been mentioned earlier, the Minister of Agriculture released a legal notice No.37 on the 4th of May 2018. The legal notice states as follows:

Licensing of wool and mohair business

Schedule 2(1) a person shall not be involved in business of-

  1. wool and mohair shearing shed,
  2. wool and mohair brokering,
  3. wool and mohair testing,
  4. wool and mohair trading and auctioning,
  5. wool and mohair processing and exporting

unless the person has obtained a license from to do so from the Minister responsible for Small Business Development Cooperatives and Marketing (in these regulations referred to as “the Minister”) in accordance with these regulations.

Moreover, the regulations stated that the Minister also has power to amend or cancel the license on terms and conditions laid. Additionally, it is stated that a holder of the export licence shall not export wool and mohair unless it is prepared, brokered, traded and auctioned in Lesotho.

Upon the passing of these regulations, the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Growers Association wrote a letter to the Economic and Development Cluster Committee to reveal its stance on Legal Notice No. 37 of 2018. In the letter the association appealed to the committee that the Legal Notice No. 37 of 2018 be held in obeisance until the following are undertaken:

  1. Government should engage the farmers and farmer organizations for the farmers to input in the said regulations. The Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Small Business Cooperatives and Marketing wrote us a letter of 14 May 2018 proposing the meeting of 30 May 2018 where we anticipated to be availed to engage in discussion in the proposed regulations. To our dismay, on the 18th May 2018 we learned that the regulations had been tabled in Parliament.
  2. Members of Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association are currently using Lesotho Government owned shearing sheds. Schedule 1 of Legal Notice No.37 of 2018 has reference only to ‘Individual Citizen’ shearing shed, clarity has to be provided as how to use the Wool and Mohair Farmer Associations and Cooperatives shall be accommodated in the licensing.
  3. Auctioning wool and mohair has to be undertaken under well prepared Auction floors and well organised contingent of buyers for effective competition; we are not aware of the presence of this infrastructure to effectively handle Lesotho clip for this important activity.
  4. Lesotho mohair has been shorn, graded and packaged for export to the international markets. While the discussion and other preparatory procedures for local auctioning of Lesotho wool and mohair are under discussion as we propose, we strongly recommend that 2018 Mohair Clip be marketed under The Agricultural Marketing (Trading) Regulations, 1974.

With all honesty and fairness, it should be noted here that the Government made these sloppy regulations probably with the spirit of revenge to the farmers as Justice L. Chaka-Makhooane J. made a ruling against Maseru Dawning.

It should be noted here that while these regulations overrule the existing systems, the farmers have not been consulted about these regulations at all before implementation of this cruel and sloppy piece of legislation. It was therefore for that reason that the farmers approached parliament with an aim of lobbying the Economic Cluster Committee, to stop the law from being implemented but the leadership of the House is alleged to have ignored this and the house went for winter break without discussing the legislation. This left the farmers with no option but to file a case in the High Court to challenge the legislation as having not stopped by Parliament endorsed the law.

 

It shall as well be recalled that on the 18th of January 2018, Maseru Dawning appealed to the court of justice seeking a court to order Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association to deliver wool and mohair from the Lesotho farmers after the building of Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre. However, Maseru Dawning failed to present evidence of breach of contract when LNWMGA argued that there was no breach in their refusal to deliver wool clip to the company. On the contrary the court declined to give a positive court order because Maseru Dawning had failed to prove that there was a breach of contact. The court was also aware that forcing the members of LNWMGA (the farmers) to go against their free will be prejudicial to them. Therefore the application was dismissed with costs on ordinary scale.

 

In a meeting held on the 5th of June 2018 between wool brokers and the Government, it became very true that the Government of Lesotho has actually made the legislation with a sole purpose of protecting Maseru Dawning as Minister Phori clearly presented the case during an interview with Lesotho Television as mentioned in the above paragraphs.

What really levelled the case was when all parties were on the table, to be briefed for the first time about the regulations and Maseru Dawning was not invited. Those present were: Puli-Ea-Thaba, OVK-CMW and BKB.

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