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Livestock traders stranded

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Caswell Tlali

MASERU — They are considered an eyesore everywhere.

And they have been rejected everywhere.

First, it was the Maseru City Council (MCC) which kicked them out of the city in 2007.

The council said their business of selling sheep, goats and cattle along the streets was a health hazard.

It said the business was in clear violation of the city’s by-laws which bar individuals from rearing and selling livestock in urban areas.

And so they were pushed out of the city, away to Ha-Abia, some 10 kilometres north of Maseru.

But the villagers in Ha-Abia were not happy with their presence.

They said the traders were compromising their security.

They also kicked them out as well.

From there the traders were moved to Ha-Foso, a 20-minutes drive from Maseru city centre.

At Ha-Foso the livestock traders were temporarily housed in a compound belonging to the National Abattoir and Feedlot.

The Ministry of Agriculture promised to find the traders a permanent place to do their business.

But now Meraka Lesotho (Pty) Ltd, a company holding a sublease to the National Abattoir and Feedlot has asked the traders to leave saying they now want to use the place.

This has left the traders stranded.

Thabang Mahloko, 32, one of the traders, told the Sunday Express that he is now planning to abandon the business in frustration.

“It is disheartening not to be trusted by residents and chiefs in villages where you trade,” Mahloko said.

“It is even more frustrating when you do not have a place of your own.”

Mahloko said ever since they were asked to move to the area in 2008, they have had constant clashes with the local people over pastures.

“Sometimes they accuse us of stealing their livestock or waylaying their womenfolk and raping them when they pass near our compound,” he said.

Mahloko said he just does not know where they will go from here.

He said when the government put them in the Feedlot compound there was no resistance from Basotho.

Mahloko alleged trouble only started when Meraka Lesotho (Pty) Ltd co-opted a Chinese businessman in the project.

“We are aware that they have a Chinese businessman in their company and that is why they no longer want us here,” he said.

Mohale Majara, the chief for Ha-Foso, said the livestock traders were never introduced to him and when he confronted the Ministry of Agriculture about the issue he was told that the compound belonged to the ministry.

“They are in my village and their livestock is grazing in my pastures but I was told that I have no control over them,” Chief Majara said.

“The people here do not want them because they always clash over pastures,” he said.

Villagers who spoke to the Sunday Express said they will not accept the livestock traders in their village.

“The pastures are already not enough for our livestock and we cannot afford to host livestock from other villages here,” said one villager.

The board chairperson for Meraka Lesotho, ’Mammako Molapo, said the traders had only been allocated the compound on a temporary basis as the government was still looking for a permanent place for them.

Molapo said they asked the traders to move out because they now wanted to use the Feedlot.

“We do not have anything against them . . . we just want to use our place to rear our own livestock,” Molapo said.

“However, we will still buy their livestock just as we will buy from every Mosotho.”

She denied allegations that they were being influenced to drive away the traders by a Chinese businessman who is now in their midst.

“It is true that we have a Chinese businessman in our midst but we have always had him ever since we acquired the contract to run the abattoir and feedlot,” Molapo said.

Agriculture Minister Ralechate ’Mokose told a local radio station last week that the traders were aware that they were being housed at the feedlot on a temporary basis.

He said the government was still looking for a permanent place to house the traders.

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