A MOKHOTLONG farmer, Mohlalefi Moteane, faces a seven year jail term and a fine of M70 000 if found guilty of contravening the recently passed wool and mohair regulations which forbid anyone from exporting wool and mohair without a licence.
This follows a Thursday incident in which 9 000 kilogrammes of wool belonging to Mr Moteane was confiscated by Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) customs officers at the Maseru border.
The LRA officers seized a truck carrying 60 bales of sheep’s wool valued at M990 000 at Maseru Bridge. According to the LRA documents, the wool belonged to Mr Moteane and it was destined for Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
The Minister of Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing, Chalane Phori, who visited the border on Friday, said Mr Moteane would soon face charges of contravening the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Regulations, 2018.
The Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Regulations 2018, which were gazetted by 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 obtained from the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing.
Regulations 2 (1) indicate that a person shall not engage in a business of wool and mohair shearing shed, brokering, testing, processing, exporting, trading and auctioning unless the person has obtained a licence to do so from the Small Business minister.
“A person who is found to be in a business of wool and mohair shearing or exporting without a licence will be fined M20 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both sentences,” part of the regulations state.
“A person guilty of brokering, testing, processing, trading and auctioning wool and mohair without a license will be eligible for a M50 000 fine or a maximum of five years imprisonment or both punishments”.
This therefore means that if found guilty on all counts, Mr Moteane could be handed a seven year prison sentence and a fine of M70 000 or both.
Maseru Bridge LRA Customs Acting Manager Tseko Ngatane said they impounded the wool because the owner of the wool did not have enough clearance documents for the consignment to be allowed to cross the border.
“The truck was crossing the border to South Africa on Thursday at about 7pm when the customs officials discovered that there were missing documents to clear the consignment to cross into South Africa,” Mr Ngatane told the media on Friday at Maseru Bridge.
“The (clearance) documents have to include the certificate of origin, permit to export, contract of sale and a livestock permit but the owner only submitted latter a livestock permit,” Mr Ngatane said.
Mr Phori visited the border on Friday morning to inspect the confiscated consignment together with his principal secretary, Lerata Pekane and the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Machesetsa Mofomobe.
He applauded the customs officials and the police for working together to stop the “illegal” trade of wool. He said it was clear that there were farmers who were not ready to abide by the new law and such farmers would face the consequences.
“The government has made it clear that it wants the wool and mohair to be sold from Lesotho by people who are authorised by law to do so. There has been resistance from people who acted as the farmers’ sales agents. They insist that the wool will cross the border even without the government’s approval. They said the wool is from their own livestock therefore no one has the right to dictate how they should sell it.
“These people have been ripping off farmers by deducting tax from the wool and mohair which they never pay to the government and now that they realise that they will no longer benefit, they want to rubbish the new regulations as a bad thing. The regulations are meant to uplift the country’s economy by maximising farmers’ profits and ensuring the money circulates in the country.
“This is not the first attempt (to illegally transport wool into South Africa). Last Tuesday we got a tipoff that there was a truck which was set to cross Peka Bridge but maybe they got wind of the fact that the plot had been discovered and the owners chickened out. I thank the customs officials and the police for stopping the illegal trade. They should continue doing so and never accept bribes as that would kill the economy.”
Mr Phori also said that he was disappointed with Mr Moteane as he was one of the farmers he met to explain the new regulations.
The attempt to ‘illegally’ export the wool comes shortly after Mr Phori and the Minister of Trade, Tefo Mapesela, went on a countrywide tour to explain the new regulations and how they would impact on the local wool and mohair farmers business.