HIGH Court Judge Justice T?eliso Monaphathi on Thursday ordered the Butha Buthe police to release a truck carrying wool and mohair which seized by the police on its way to Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
The truck which had 113 bales of wool and mohair was impounded by the police on Monday at the Caledonspoort Border Post in Butha Buthe. It had been impounded in line with the wool and mohair regulations that were gazetted by the government barring farmers from selling their fabric outside the country.
The truck had been kept in police custody until the law officers were served with the High Court order on Friday.
The Butha Buthe truck is the second after another was seized and released in Maseru last month.
Justice Monaphathi ruled that the confiscation of the truck was unlawful and that the respondents (police and attorney general) should incur the applicants’ legal costs.
“It is ordered that…a rule nisi is issued calling upon the second respondent (Officer Commanding Butha Buthe Police Station) to show cause, if any, why the second respondent and his subordinates shall not be directed to restore forthwith omnia ante to the applicant’s possession of a horse and trailer bearing registration letter and numbers C 8430 and F 7576 together with the bales of wool and mohair pending finalisation thereof,” the court papers read.
“It is declared that the respondents’ seizure and taking possession of the vehicle together with the wool and mohair it was caring is unlawful, null and void and of no force and effect.”
The government on 4 May 2018 gazetted the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Regulations 2018, which state that no one will be allowed to trade in wool and mohair without a license obtained from Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing.
Subsequently, on 8 June 2018, the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) filed an urgent application in the High Court where it wanted the latter to declare the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Regulations null and void and further afford the farmers an interim which will allow them to export wool and mohair to the destinations of their choice pending the finalisation of the case.
On 12 June 2018, an interim court order was issued by the High Court ordering the government to allow farmers to sell their wool and mohair wherever they wish.
“The respondents (Ministers of Agriculture and that of Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing) are ordered to allow the applicants to export wool and mohair to South Africa or any other country and in that regard are ordered to release to the possession of applicant the necessary permits such as veterinary services, bailing transport forms, temporary receipts and stock sheets for each shipment of wool and mohair the applicant intends to export pending finalisation of these proceedings,” read the interim court order.
Nonetheless, the government has since blocked the exportation of wool and mohair by prohibiting the wool and mohair from crossing the border.
On 19 July 2018, another truck carrying 9 000 kilogrammes of wool was impounded at Maseru Bridge but was also subsequently released.
Speaking to the Sunday Express recently, LNWMGA breeder principal, Khotsang Moshoeshoe, indicated that the government believed it was above the law by continuing to forbid farmers to export their wool and mohair even though the court has granted them permit.
“We have a clear court order which compels the government to stop meddling in our affairs. The law allows us to sell our wool and mohair wherever we want but it seems the government is turning a blind eye to that issue,” Mr Moshoeshoe said.
“We made it clear from the onset that the Regulations do not affect us in any way. When one looks at Schedule 1 of those regulations…it clearly specifies that only individuals and companies qualify for such licences whereas we have all along as associations and cooperatives, not companies. We do not have boards of directors but committees whereas the regulations talk of those.
“That is one of the reasons for which we filed a case challenging those regulations and while the case is still pending, we got the interim order to allow us to export. It is clear the government was in a hurry when it drafted the regulations hence they have so many loopholes,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Minister of Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing, Chalane Phori, said the court order did not say they should sell “from” South Africa but “to” South Africa.
“We made a law that clearly states that wool and mohair have to be sold from Lesotho and the person wishing to do so has to get a licence from my ministry. However, it seems we have people who think they can operate as they please but unfortunately, I do not know what they believe will be the solution to their stubbornness.
“It is true they were granted a court order but the courts did not say they should sell the wool and mohair from those companies in Port Elizabeth. It just said that they should be allowed to sell to anyone they want and that I should grant them licences to do so. They have never come to my offices requesting licences or permits to do so,” Mr Phori said.