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I didn’t receive any money: ‘Mokose

Nat Molomo and Bongiwe Zihlangu
MASERU — Forestry and Land Reclamation Minister Ralechate ‘Mokose has rejected charges that he received money from the block farming scheme.
The allegations are contained in a damning letter that former trade minister Mpho Malie wrote to Standard Lesotho Bank which distributed the government-guaranteed loans to the block farmers.
The letter also alleged that some ministers who had been appointed as mentors to some farmer groups had themselves borrowed from the scheme and failed to pay back.
Although it does not explicitly say so, the letter appeared to have been targeted at ‘Mokose and Finance Minister Timothy Thahane who mentored some of the farmers.
The late agriculture minister Rakoro Phororo was one of the mentors.
The letter therefore implied that ‘Mokose had benefited from the scheme.
But ‘Mokose this week vehemently denied the allegations saying he had not borrowed from the scheme. 
‘Mokose was the mentor for a group of farmers under a pilot project in Kolonyama constituency 18.
‘Mokose said it was “a blatant lie” that he ever received any money from the scheme.
“I have never received any block farming money with my own hand. These allegations are unfair,” ‘Mokose said.
“At no stage was it ever stipulated that as a mentor my job would be to look after the funds allocated to farmers or people falling under block farming at Ha Molelle in the Kolonyama constituency,” he added.
“My duty as a mentor was to play a facilitating role to vouch that the Ha-Molelle people are involved in a developmental programme with the Ministry of Agriculture.”
In the letter Malie made some scathing allegations about scheme mentors and questions the bank’s lending prudence when it continued to give credit to defaulting farmers.
He added that when the programme was initiated as a pilot project in his constituency in 2006, meetings between the area chiefs and officials of the Ministry of Agriculture were held to market the project.
‘Mokose said at no time did he handle the group’s financial issues.
Mokose also supplied the Sunday Express with the names of people who formed the committee of block farmers. 
He said he had tried to remind the farmers to pay back the money.
“I called a local meeting at the chief’s place and read out a list which I had obtained from the department of agriculture of the names of people who had defaulted reminding them that they should pay,” he said.
“To this the farmers countered by saying that the minister was bringing them a list of people who had died.
“I then decided to go to Hlotse to the office of the District Agricultural Officer to get a list of the defaulters,”  ‘Mokose said. 
The minister told them that they should repay their loans or else they would be in trouble if they failed to pay. 
“I was only a gateway for the farmers and was there to ensure these people (block farmers) grouped themselves under block farming,” he said.

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