Mokhotlong’s hospitality sector experienced a rare boon in the days leading to King Letsie III 51st birthday celebrations, which were held in the district on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
A manager at Mokhotlong Hotel, ‘Malineo Morojele, told the Sunday Express that the hotel experienced one of its most profitable times as people checked in for accommodation.
“Business was extremely good. The rooms were full and we had to send the spillovers to homes that were providing accommodation,” Ms Morojele said.
Other businesses such as restaurants also experienced a massive boost during this period, among them ‘Mathabang Masilo’s small eatery.
“I wish business was always this good. Our meals sold out several times, and we had to prepare more food. Sadly, we will get back to the reality of slow-moving business after the festivities,” Ms Masilo said.
However, business was not so good for other companies which had to close down as the King’s birthday, 17 July, is a public holiday.
Supermarkets, clothing retailers and liquor shops were closed for most of the day in line with the requirements of public holidays.
Tšeliso Tšele, the owner of Ntja-Mokoatle Hardware and Furniture Shop, however, said he did not mind that his business had to close on this day.
According to Mr Tšele, he was excited that things were about to improve for all businesses in Mokhotlong once the construction of a road which links the district to Butha-Buthe was complete.
About 70 kilometres of the road from Oxbow to Mapholaneng is being reconstructed. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport had requested an allocation of M163 million for the road that passes by Letšeng Diamond Mine and leads to Polihali where construction of a dam is about to start.
“We are happy that the road is being reconstructed. It is a big problem for us when we transport goods from Butha-Buthe. It costs a lot of money when people have to hire cars to transport their goods, as you have to pay the cost of delivery and the risk,” Mr Tšele said.
He further said the other challenge that still remains is having to take long routes by going to faraway border-posts when importing goods from Durban, South
Africa,where most businesses operating in the district buy their stock.
“Most businesses import goods from Durban but cannot use the nearest entry, which is Sani Pass Border Gate, because it is not commercial. The post can only clear goods whose value is not above M5000.
“For you to use the border, you are requested to complete a form from the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) for a clearing agent to send it to Qacha’s Nek where they will inspect it and send it back later. It is a lengthy process that many people avoid and rather use other entry points,” he said
Mr Tšele further said local entrepreneurs were hopeful that the government would also consider upgrading the Sani Pass Border Gate so they could clear their goods close-by.
“That would help us run our businesses more easily and profitably.”
Another businessman, Limpho Natlane, who owns Siea U Butse Blocks and Transport, said he believed the good times were coming their way as the construction of Polihali Dam in Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) was drawing closer.
The multibillion-maloti hydropower and water transfer project promises to present good business opportunities to local entrepreneurs, when dam construction begins in 2017.
Mr Natlane said the business community in Mokhotlong was eager for works to begin on the M15billion project.
“We are already having meetings with the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) officers here in Mokhotlong.
“They were telling us to prepare ourselves so that our businesses can be considered for some of the operations which will take place,” Mr Natlane said.
He further said local entrepreneurs were already eyeing some preparatory works like building houses for people who are going to be relocated and transporting such families to their new houses.
He said his business stood a chance in having a stake in the project.
“We make bricks. Bricks might be needed for building the houses. We also provide transport services which are going to be needed in moving people’s property when they are moved to new houses,” he said.