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Braai Festival hangs in the balance

Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE fate of this year’s edition of the Maletsunyane Braai Festival hangs in the balance amid indications that the organisers are at loggerheads with the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) over the event.

The organisers have accused the LTDC of threatening to stop the festival by allegedly trying to buy the land on which the festival is held annually near the iconic Maletsunyane Falls.

This has however, been disputed by the LTDC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mpaiphele Maqutu, who told this paper that instead, his organisation wants the organisers of the festival to stop “cutting corners”.

The Maletsunyane Braai Festival is held on the last weekend of November annually and is held on the land that overlooks the Maletsunyane Falls in Semonkong since 2016.

Speaking to this paper, one of the organisers, Khothatso Mosuoane, said when they started the festival, they were only executing an idea which they wanted to test hence held the event without charging any fees.

He said the second in the second year they then started charging revelers and that is when the LTDC came in demanding fees and VIP tickets.

“In the second year the LTDC demanded VIP tickets and they also wanted M80 000 licence fees for hosting the event there but eventually, we held the event without paying that money,” Mosuoane said.

“They came again last year and said they were not consulted for the event. Even though they attended the festival and erected their branding, it was evident that they were unhappy.”

Mosuoane said they recently learnt that LTDC was talking to the owners of the land where the festival is held negotiating to buy it behind their backs.

“We have a long term agreement with the owners of the land and it is the correct thing for the LTDC to consult us before they purchase the land because that is where we host the festival.”

He said they recently engaged the LTDC seeking to understand the problem but were told that the corporation would only speak to the owners of the land and not the organisers of the event. Mosuoane said they now think the LTDC is out to elbow them out of hosting the festival.

Maqutu however, refuted the allegations saying since the Semonkong area is reserved for tourism development, they are developing that area for the good of the community.

“That we are planning to stop the festival is false because we are planning to call them for a meeting to iron out some issues,” he said.

He said the organisers of the festival would however, not get an open cheque and do as they please without the input of the LTDC as the custodians of the country’s tourism.

“There are procedures to be followed for the private sector to host tourism events and we are expecting the Maletsunyane Braai Festival organisers to follow the right procedures to host that event.

“They need to get permission from the LTDC and not do as they please because we will not allow that to happen.

“They need to apply for a permit from the Ministry of Tourism which will need them to present on issues like an evacuation plan and paramedics on site among many others,” Maqutu said.

He added that they have even agreed with the Ministry of Tourism that the event will not be held without properly requesting for permission.

Maqutu also confirmed that they were building a visitor’s centre and erecting a boom gate at Semonkong so that they can start collect revenue from tourists but was also quick to add that this was not their way of barring the festival.

“We need these events to happen but they cannot happen on the organisers’ own terms,” Maqutu said.

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