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Relief for wool and mohair farmers

  • as parly resolves to amend controversial wool and mohair regulations

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

PARLIAMENT has resolved to amend the controversial 2018 wool and mohair regulations in line with the recommendations of the recommendations of the Kimetso Mathaba-led ad hoc committee that was set up by parliament this year to investigate the troubled wool and mohair sector.

The ad hoc parliamentary committee, comprising of 17 legislators drawn from the governing parties and the opposition, found that the wool and mohair regulations of 2018 had impoverished thousands of Basotho and called on the government to immediately repeal the controversial regulations.

The ad hoc committee also urged the government to ensure that all farmers are paid their dues for the wool and mohair they delivered to the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC).

From May 2018 when the regulations were gazetted until August 2019, farmers could only sell their produce through the LWC in Thaba Bosiu which enjoyed a monopoly in the wool and mohair industry.

The farmers bitterly opposed the regulations and in June 2019 they staged the “mother of all demonstrations” in Maseru to force the government to repeal the regulations and allow them to sell their produce via South African brokers, BKB, as they had done for 44 years until last year when the new laws were passed.

The farmers argued that they were assured of quick and higher payments by BKB than those offered by the LWC.

The embattled government responded by adopting opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader, Mothetjoa Metsing’s motion for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate the state of the wool and mohair industry as part of efforts to address the farmers’ grievances.

The members of the parliamentary committee are Kimetso Mathaba (chairman), Ntlhoi Motsamai, Selibe Mochoboroane, Teboho Sekata, Thulo Mahlakeng, Limpho Tau, Vincent Malebo, ‘Mapulumo Hlao, Thuso Litjobo, Thabang Kholumo, Motlohi Maliehe, Mohapi Mohapinyane, Tšeliso Kalake, Kose Makoa, Tlokotsi Manyooko, ‘Marapelang Malefane and Likopo Mahase. The committee began its work on 2 July up to 21 October 2019.

A fortnight ago the ad hoc committee issued its adverse findings on the wool and mohair sector, saying the 2018 regulations should be repealed with immediate effect because they had caused untold suffering to more than 250 000 Basotho who depended on the sector for their livelihood. The 250 000 figure is more than 10 percent of the country’s 2, 1 million population.

And during last Tuesday parliamentary session, Democratic Congress leader and Official leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mathibeli Mokhothu, moved for the adoption of the ad hoc committee’s adverse report albeit with some minor changes.

The first recommendation of the ad hoc committee was that the regulations “should be repealed with immediate effect to allow Basotho farmers to sell their product at the institutions or places of their choice”.

It has now been edited to say, “We urge the government to formulate legislation within seven days to allow Basotho farmers individually or collectively to sell their product at the institutions or places of their choice”.

The committee had initially urged the government “to ensure that outstanding payments to local farmers are effected immediately”. This has now been changed to say that the ad hoc committee recommends that the government should ensure that the payments are made within 30 days.

The resolution to amend rather than repeal the regulations was reached after Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, advised that repealing the law would worsen the farmers’ plight as they would have to wait longer for the government to come up with new regulations.

Mr Mofomobe argued that farmers were already frustrated with the slow payments and they were stuck with more produce which they cannot sell.

“This house should recall that before these current (2018) regulations, we had the Agriculture and Marketing Regulations 1974. When the current regulations were adopted, the 1974 regulations had already been repealed.

“If we were to repeal the current regulations, there might be a vacuum because we will not have the old regulations to revert to. We will have a predicament where there is no law while the new law is being crafted. I would recommend that we amend the current regulations so that the desired goal can be achieved,” Mr Mofomobe said.

Meanwhile, Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Chalane Phori, said at least 584 wool and mohair farmer are yet to be paid for their produce for the 2018/2019 shearing season.

Mr Phori this week accused Standard Lesotho Bank (SLB) and the Central Bank of Lesotho of not doing enough to ensure the farmers receive their payments.

He said the LWC has been waiting for more than a month for M10, 3 million from international buyers to be cleared by the banks.

The M10, 3 million is for the last shipment of wool and mohair which was shipped out from South Africa in September 2019. Of the amount, M4 385 612 is owed to the farmers.

“We have asked the Finance minister the Minister of Finance to intervene in an attempt to expedite the farmers’ pending payments.

“The LWC is encountering problems with SLB. It says it has been over a month since the SLB was asked to provide clearance to facilitate payment for the farmers but to date nothing has happened.

“I am told that SLB claims that it has been instructed by the CBL not to issue the form. We have failed to resolve the matter hence we have left the matter in the hands of the Finance Minister (Moeketsi Majoro).

“The Finance minister has promised to convene a meeting with the CBL, SLB, LWC and the Ministry of Small Business Development to discuss the problems that are delaying the clearance of the remaining M10 million for farmers payments,” Mr Phori said.

The SLB and CBL are yet to reply to this publication’s email request for comment on the issue.

 

 

 

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