By Tshepo Heqoa
“And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” KJV Bible
When our leaders will so abjure the principles of our country’s governance as to enact a law forbidding wool and mohair export, and further violate a court order in favour of wool and mohair international trade, our Nation will surely fall into a temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activities are reduced (recession) of who knows how long it will take us to rebuild our economy again. This certainly is nothing else than giving life to the tyranny which has been eagerly watching its opportunity to spring into active despotism for the sake of personal gain, interests and individual exclusive possession and control of the wool and mohair trade (monopoly).
Dr Mohlalefi Moteane is a retired Lesotho Farmers’ Union President and civil servant who has been very active in promoting the growth of the wool and mohair industry in Lesotho. He shared with the Silo team his experience and views about the current dilemma the LNWMGA and other fibre producers in the country are facing.
“In the colonial days, the colonial government recognised the importance of the wool and mohair fibre and decided to encourage Basotho in that direction. I can start way back in the days when there were just fat-tail sheep here that lacked the wool fibre. The local traders were the first to trade and export the wool and mohair fibre in the country. You can name them; Frasers, The Collier Agnates, The Ken-Nolan’s, Mr Morojele in Mokhotlong, and Mr Makhakhe who owned Buses.”
“They traded in the most remote areas of the country. When they brought stock to their shops they would take back the fibre that was sheared back with them and sell and export through the brokers like BKB. BKB as a broker would prepare magazines and catalogues that were presentable to the buyers. Thirdly, another trader of this commodity were the cooperatives, the three surviving being in Mount Moorosi, Mokhotlong, and Botha Bothe. These are the cooperatives that have withstood the test of time.”
Dr Moteane further narrated that at this point the government recognised the importance of these commodities but then they realised that there was much variance and inequality among Basotho farmers. One owned 20 sheep, while another 1000 sheep, meaning transport would be a problem for some. Lesotho government then decided to organise this people. This process started a long time ago in the 1950s to organise these people into an association, with only one motive of marketing wool and mohair. The benefits that we get out of this is not only about the marketing of the wool and mohair but we get benefits in the social affairs for this country.
The benefits we get from the fibre industry are beyond what we can all comprehend. In terms of employment, this industry has employed more people than any other in the country. Relatively, 200 000 people are employed by the wool and mohair industry. This sector is more important even more than the textile industry because this money comes directly into the hands of the people. These are the people sustaining the rural economy because large sums like M 460 000 000.00 disclosed by BKB goes directly to the people. The government of Lesotho cannot employ these people.
“We should be supporting them to assist and ascertain that they have a success. This is the most successful organisation in the country. You do not have any other association up at this level.”
A state Capture by Stone
Dr Moteane further disclosed that today something is being seen that is a result of what is called a state- capture by the Chinese with a suggested impression that farmers are being cheated.
“This people have shown their wool and mohair fibre and stored it in sheds. The government that has been key towards the success of the fibre industry with regard to marketing and assisting quality production has halted the production due to fraudulent affiliations of ministers with a corrupt Chinese business man.”
“There is a Chinese man…, I am a veterinary, also involved in the marketing of wool and mohair as a trader. Sometime in 2012, a Chinese man came to me saying he understands I have wool sheds. This Chinese man came to me telling me that he wants to work with me, what would you have said? Who are you? How do you propose to work with me? So I dismissed him. But I subsequently saw him here. And I wondered what he was looking for at the LNWMGA’s offices. I happened at that time to be the President of the farmers union and the association was a member of the National Farmers Union, therefore I used to come over here.”
“At that time when seeing him here, we had what was called “bulking stores” which were built with the support of the British government. These are located at the train station by the boarder where the Chinese man is located today. This was the very place where the Lesotho wool and mohair fibres were collected from different wool sheds and prepared by the side of the railway. The railways claimed their site back. The government then turned to farmers (LNWMGA) saying they have to move those sheds and build them elsewhere. It was right at that time when the Chinese man said that he could build the bulking stores for the association which seemed to have entertained this suggestion which was unfortunate because they should not have.”
It is reported that at this point, the main committee assigned a sub-committee of four people that would work with this Chinese man. The latter further made a suggestion to this sub-committee to build four massive bulking stores. Further, a suggestion was made to form a joint company which they also agreed upon. Land was sought for at Thaba-Bosiu and the construction work began.
Who Is Stone Shi
Earlier this year in an article released by the Post (June 29, 2018) Stone Shi claimed to be a Vice Chairman of the Chinese Wool and Mohair Textile Factories Association. Surprisingly, this name when run through google could not appear. A name closest to that was the Chinese Wool Textile Association where neither his name nor his company’s name appear.