’Marafaele Mohloboli / Mohalenyane Phakela
THE opposition has accused the government of sabotaging wool and mohair farmers together with their (farmers’) South African brokers, BKB.
BKB have been selling wool and mohair to international markets on behalf of local farmers for the last 44 years.
The opposition say the government has sabotaged the farmers and BKB to ensure that a Chinese national, Shi Stone, benefits from the new arrangement in which Mr Stone’s company is the only entity which is allowed to sell wool and mohair on behalf of local farmers.
This follows an agreement between the Lesotho National Mohair and Growers’ Association (LNWMGA) and Mr Shi’s company, Maseru Dawning Trading, to develop the M40 million Lesotho Wool Centre where wool and mohair will be sold directly from Lesotho to international buyers rather than from South Africa as was the case with BKB.
The Lesotho Wool Centre is located in Thaba-Bosiu and its stated aim is to ensure that local farmers maximise the financial returns from the sale of their fabric which will be sold directly to overseas spinning factories through an online auction.
It is envisaged that by reducing the number of intermediaries involved in the selling process, the wool centre will ensure that the farmers not only get higher financial returns but the payment process will be expedited.
The Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Regulations 2018, which were gazetted by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mahala Molapo, on 4 May 2018, state that no one will be allowed to trade in wool and mohair without a licence from the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing.
The regulations further state that “the holder of an export license shall not export wool and mohair unless it is prepared, brokered, traded and auctioned in Lesotho”.
“A person who is found to be in a business of wool and mohair shearing shed or exporting without a license will be fined M20 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both sentences. A person guilty of brokering, testing, processing, trading and auctioning wool and mohair without a licence will be eligible for a M50 000 fine or a maximum of five years imprisonment.”
The regulations were described as draconic by the opposition in their recent joint press conference in Maseru.
In their press conference, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Democratic Congress (DC), Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), National Independent Party (NIP) and the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) said they would stop at nothing to protect the rights of Basotho farmers against the “Chinese who have captured Lesotho”.
They accused the government of establishing regulations to ensure that only Mr Shi benefits from the wool and mohair industry by removing BKB from the picture to force local farmers to sell through him (Mr Shi) alone.
“It is a known fact that the courts ruled against the government (last year) not to interfere with how farmers sell their wool and mohair and it is upon that basis that the government decided to go after BKB by freezing its account which it uses to pay local farmers, however, BKB still won a case against that,” said the DC chairperson, Motlalentoa Letsosa.
“We will not stand back and watch the government arm-twist the farmers to favour the Chinese businessman. The regulations are intended to replace BKB with the Chinese businessman and yet the government and the Chinese businessman do not own any livestock that produce wool and mohair.
“The farmers, through their associations have been operating shearing sheds but the new regulations forbid them from doing so without a licence from the ministry of small business, further imposing a M20 000 fine if one is found in possession of wool and mohair without a license.”
Another DC official, Likeleli Tampane, said the government’s insensitivity towards the farmers stemmed from its lack of understanding of what it entailed to breed livestock for wool and mohair.
DPL leader Limpho Tau said they would “do everything to emancipate Basotho because we can see that Lesotho has been captured by the Chinese”.
“These are draconian laws which should not be used in any democratic dispensation. This is unacceptable,” said Motlalentoa Letsosa who is the opposition’s Chief whip and member of the DC.
DC legislator and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai said that government ought to engage farmers in drafting the regulations.
“The government has not kept its part of the bargain in dealing with this matter and there is only one person who stands to benefit from this arrangement,” she said.
The table below illustrates categories and fees for wool and mohair licenses.
|LOCAL COMPANY||FOREIGN COMPANY||CONDITIONS (MUST HAVE)|
|Shearing shed||M1 500||M5 000||M3 500||M10 000||Shearing equipment and a Lesotho back account.|
|Brokering||M3 000||M5 000||M10 000||M20 000||10 000sq.m operating space, sampling equipment, data collection system, wool and mohair handling equipment and a Lesotho bank account|
|Testing||M1 500||M15 000||M1 500||M15 000||Fully functional testing laboratory with necessary equipment and a Lesotho bank account|
|Trading and auctioning||M3 000||M10 000||M3 000||M15 000||An auction system and bank account in Lesotho|
|Processing||M150||M3 000||M10 000||M20 000||Necessary equipment for small scale or large scale manufacturers and a Lesotho bank account|