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Letšeng Mine addresses Mokhotlong ultimatum

by Sunday Express
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Billy Ntaote
MASERU — The Letšeng Diamond Mine Chief Executive Officer Mazvi Maharasoa says demands by the Mokhotlong com­munity to be granted a five percent share­holding in the mine will be addressed ac­cordingly by the mine board of directors and government.

In a letter dated January 8, addressed to Advocate Thabo Lerotholi, President of the Maluti Community Development Fo­rum (MCDF) — an advocacy group repre­senting the Mokhotlong people — Letšeng said it would soon be responding to the forum’s petition submitted to the mine on December 13, 2013.

Letšeng Diamonds has two shareholders — London-based Gem Diamonds Limited which owns 70 percent and the Lesotho government which owns 30 percent of the diamond producer.
On December 13, the MCDF led by Le­rotholi petitioned the mine seeking the Mokhotlong community to be granted a five percent shareholding of Letšeng.

The disgruntled community was also clamouring for the immediate dismissal of Maharasoa accusing her of having failed to properly run the mine.

Responding to the petition, Maharasoa said since receiving the petition the mine’s board of directors managed to hold a tele­conference discussion at which time they were advised of the content of the petition on December 19, 2013.

She said the board of directors asked for a meeting with the Minister of Mining, Tlali Khasu, to discuss the matters raised in the petition with particular focus on “matters that relate to government policy”.

“The earliest that this meeting can take place is on January 29, 2014,” Maharasoa said.
She therefore requested the forum to ex­tend its petition deadline to February 14.
Thereafter, she said, it is envisaged that a meeting will be set up between Letseng, the ministry and the forum as requested in the petition.

The community further alleged the mine employed only a few people from the dis­trict whom petitioners allege secured em­ployment through nepotism.

Speaking to the Lesotho Times Lerotholi said the petition also had complaints that Letšeng conducts its procurement servic­es in a manner that discriminates against construction companies based in the dis­trict while “outsiders” get contracted.

He, however, said the response by the mine to their grievances was welcome and they would be waiting for a full response and a meeting to discuss their demands and how they can get five percent share­holding in the mine and participate in its decision-making processes.

Lerotholi said the forum would now be informing the community about the re­sponse through public gatherings in Mok­hotlong today.

In addition to their list of grievances the residents called on the mine’s stakehold­ers to undertake an audit, in particular of the procurement unit, beginning in 2006.

They also complained that Letšeng over­looks local companies when it hires buses to transport its workers to and from work.

The residents are also unhappy with the way the mine conducts its corporate so­cial responsibility programme, alleging it is not transparent or consultative but, in­stead, it is “instructive to the community”.

Lerotholi said they have since copied the petition to the mine’s main shareholder, Gem Diamonds, abroad and Minister Kha­su with whom they have already started talks.

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