OPPOSITION legislators have questioned the source of the money set aside by the government to pay wool and mohair farmers for the produce they delivered to the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) in 2018 and 2019.
Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro announced the bailout while presenting his budget speech on Wednesday.
He said the government would pay the 1000 farmers who were owed by the LWC but did not indicate how much has been set aside or mention the source of the money.
Some wool and mohair farmers subsequently told the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times newspaper that they would reject the government’s offer to pay off the debt owed to them by the LWC.
The farmers said the gesture proved that the government was working in cahoots with the beleaguered Maseru Dawning Company owned by businessman, Stone Shi, which runs the LWC.
Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) spokesperson, Khotsang Moshoeshoe, described the offer as “absurd”. He told the Lesotho Times that the farmers’ association had rejected the offer outrightly as the money was now coming from the taxpayers instead of the LWC. He also predicted that the payouts would eventually be lower than market rates if the debt was paid by the government.
Opposition legislators have now added their voices to the saga, questioning the source of the promised government bailout. The legislators said they have never approved any budget to bail out Maseru Dawning because Dr Majoro had not submitted any budget for such for such a bailout.
The main opposition Democratic Congress (DC)’s Malingoaneng legislator, Serialong Qoo said Dr Majoro never requested parliament to approve a bailout and therefore it was not known how or where he sourced the money to pay the farmers.
“We have no idea where he (Dr Majoro) got the budget for the bailout,” Mr Qoo said.
“The bailout was not part of his budget speech estimation and that leaves us wondering where he sourced the money from. He has never passed anything by parliament for approval so none of us know anything about that money.”
DC deputy leader and Qalabane legislator, Motlalentoa Letsosa, concurred with Mr Qoo. He added that Dr Majoro’s announcement of the bailout showed that the government’s previous claims to have paid all framers their dues were false and deceitful.
“The hypocritical thing about this bailout is that the government and the LWC have always claimed to have paid all the farmers. But today he (Dr Majoro) is here saying that they are paying farmers. Which farmers are they now paying when they have previously claimed to have paid everybody? This shows that we are being governed by liars.
“We will closely follow up on this money to see for ourselves if it is real or not and make sure that all owed farmers are paid and not just a few individuals. But given the way this government operates, some farmers will not have been paid by June, July or even next year. Knowing this government, they could just be making empty promises,” Mr Letsosa said.