Govt to streamline work permit procedures
THE government is working towards streamlining work-permit procedures by bringing the application process under one roof.
This was revealed by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing during a media briefing held in Maseru on Wednesday as he gave the nation feedback about his recent visit to the United Kingdom (UK).
Mr Metsing led a delegation of government officials and business executives to the European nation from 4-6 April in a bid to seek investment in sectors such as mining, tourism and agriculture.
However, in his deliberations with potential investors during the Lesotho Investment Forum in London, the deputy premier said complaints were raised about the cumbersome processes involved in obtaining a work permit.
“One issue that was raised as a long-term concern by prospective investors was the challenge in obtaining work permits in Lesotho,” said Mr Metsing.
“They complained that the process took a long time which dampened their desire to invest in the country.
“The government has therefore decided to bring together all permit-related services under one office to speed-up the process.”
He also said while the application process was guided by the law, a temporary arrangement would be made to assist the investors since it would bring huge benefits to the country.
“It should be clear that some of these processes are guided by existing laws and regulations. Cabinet has ordered a temporary arrangement for easier provision of those services,” the deputy premier said.
The first step towards obtaining a work permit involves the completion of an application form which is then submitted to the Labour Commissioner.
The applicant is also required to submit copies of the employment contract and tax clearance certificate of the prospective employer, among several requirements.
If the application is approved, the applicant then goes to the Central Police Station in Maseru to get their photograph taken and thereafter be issued with the work permit.
Mr Metsing said government’s decision was welcomed by existing and potential investors who gave positive feedback during the London forum. He said Letšeng Diamonds was one of the local private sector representatives at the fair.
“I want to point out that this new arrangement to ease the process of issuing work permits has encouraged existing investors. Letšeng Diamonds indicated it would be increasing its investment by M400 million,” Mr Metsing said.
“Liqhobong Mine intends to invest about M2.4 billion. The company had already spent about 76 percent of that amount but was beginning to have doubts about investing more.
“However, as a result of this arrangement, as well deliberations we had in the UK, the company has said it would go ahead with the planned investments.”
The deputy premier expressed optimism pledges made by UK businesspeople would transform into tangible investment.
“It was a successful trip and we believe prospective investors we met will come to Lesotho to verify what we presented to them before proceeding to invest,” he said.
“When that happens, Basotho will benefit from employment opportunities and the country will benefit from taxes.”
For his part, Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana, who was part of the delegation, said the additional investment by Letšeng Mine was meant to address the challenge of diamond breakages and damages during recovery processes.
Diamond breakages caused huge loss of value to the recovered diamonds to the company, the minister added.
“For example, a mine like Letšeng produces about 10 000 carats per month,” said Mr Thotanyana.
“Small diamonds account for the majority of that output compared to larger diamonds. So these investments are already taking place during the current financial year.”
He added the charm offensive had already yielded positive results, with prospective foreign investors set to visit the country to learn more about what Lesotho has to offer.
“We have already received a delegation of investors who came to learn how the country is managing its mineral resources, and also to verify the facts we presented to them,” the minister said.
“Later this month, we are expecting a delegation of one of the world’s largest platinum producers to determine if it is possible for them to join the local mining sector.”
…as Metsing slams ‘saboteurs’
DEPUTY Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing says attempts by some “saboteurs” to sabotage his United Kingdom tour to seek investment failed as the trip was a success.
Addressing a press briefing on the outcome of the tour on Wednesday, Mr Metsing said their objective of wooing investors in the European nation was achieved despite letters written by people claiming to represent Basotho “which sought to tarnish the country’s image”.
Mr Metsing led a delegation consisting of government officials and business executives from 4-6 April 2016 on a tour dubbed Lesotho Investment Forum 2016. Among the sectors for which investment was sought were mining, tourism, agriculture and infrastructure.
However, a person claiming to represent Basotho and using the name David Ndlovu wrote letters to the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council and the Polish Chamber of Commerce warning them not to invest in Lesotho “for their safety”.
Dated 4 April 2016, the letters alleged the government was not upholding the rule of law and that the army was not submissive to civilian authority. They also claimed the “deteriorating political and security issues” in the country had resulted in the European Union withdrawing budgetary support to the Mountain Kingdom.
However, Mr Metsing said the letters had no effect on their investment drive.
“The reception we had was as though Ndlovu had never written those false statements,” he said.
“Letters such as those written by Ndlovu are not in our country’s best interest because they spread false information about the state of governance in Lesotho. In fact, such letters can make investors uncertain about Lesotho.”
The deputy premier said patriotic Basotho should continue to protect the image of Lesotho, adding the media had a responsibility to help build the nation.
“What I find shocking is that there are people who circulate such evil correspondence with their identities concealed, yet the media ends up falling prey to these plots by broadcasting and publishing such statements,” said Mr Metsing.
“The media will end up getting in trouble. We all have a responsibility to promote the nation. We might not always see issues from the same perspective, but we have to fulfil our roles.”
He expressed hope the identity of the author of the letters would soon be revealed.
“We hope those who are supposed to make investigations are doing so and all other defamatory statements would be attended to satisfactorily,” Mr Metsing said.
The deputy premier also said he held discussions with the newly-elected Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
“We urged the Commonwealth to be ready to step in and assist our country on issues of constitutional and public service reforms, among others,” he said.