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Stone Shi threatens to sue ministry

…wants license suspension revoked, but ministry remains unfazed

Mojabeng Moalosi

Maseru Downing’s Stone Shi has demanded that the Ministry of Small Business Development Cooperatives and Marketing show cause why he shouldn’t sue it for suspending his trading licence.

The broker’s licence was suspended a fortnight ago after his company failed to pay wool farmers their dues following the 2018/2019 wool and mohair sales.

Speaking with Newsday this week, Stone Shi charged that when the ministry decided to halt his operations under the claim that he didn’t pay farmers, he was not notified.

Confirming that he has outstanding payments due to farmers, the broker says he was still working on getting pending payments settled.

“I have never had the intention to run or have I ever refused that I owe farmers. When they suspended my licence, I was already finalising things.

“I understand that the minister has every power to suspend my license, but I believe he took that decision without consulting the affected farmers beforehand. In my view and according to the law, the decision of the ministry is illegal, they didn’t follow any required steps,” Shi said adding that whenever he was summoned to a meeting by the government he attended.

“I have been very cooperative throughout, thus was expecting them (Small business ministry) to have warned me in advance of their decision, but unfortunately I just received a letter notifying me that my trading licence has been suspended. I wonder what the interest of the minister is in doing this because there is a lot at stake,” Shi said.

He disclosed that his legal team has already written to the ministry demanding an explanation “why my licence was suspended and show cause why we shouldn’t sue for their decision. We are waiting to hear if they will withdraw the suspension or not before we take any further action”.

Meanwhile, contacted for a comment, the ministry’s Principal Secretary Tankiso Phapano confirmed receipt of the letter from Shi’s legal team saying the broker is demanding that his licence’s suspension be withdrawn.

“I have received a letter from his lawyers threatening a lawsuit and it is being duly handled.

“I think Maseru Dawning’s trading license suspension was an advantage to give him time to finalise the payments, but it is obvious that he took the ministry’s decision in a negative way. The only thing that the ministry will not do is to allow Stone Shi an opportunity to run a pyramid scam hibernating under the Wool and Mohair industry. If we allow him to keep on buying wool from farmers, he is likely to pay the debts of the 2018/2019 farmers with the money collected from 2020 farmers and that is equivalent to a pyramid scheme,” the PS explained.

He added, “The Ministry will withdraw the suspension only if the court says so. We are willing to risk everything to protect Basotho, even if it means waiting for that lawsuit to play out in court.”

The ministry suspended Maseru Downing’s licence pending finalisation of pending payments of farmers.

The issue of unpaid farmers and Stone Shi’s licence was dragged before parliament by a Member of Parliament for the Semena Constituency and former Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane.

Aumane charged that both the ministries of small business and agriculture are making decisions that affect the wool and mohair industry negatively.

“The two ministries are directly responsible for the industry of wool and mohair therefore should consider their decisions because so far all they have taken as resolution steps are negatively impacting the industry.

“We have presented a motion before parliament demanding that the ministries bring stability and stop coming up with regulations and procedures that bring instability to the industry.We believe that it was an error to suspend Stone Shi’s trading license because he has to pay the farmers,” Aumane said adding that the suspension has brought to a standstill the operations of Maseru Downing.

“Suspending the license means closing down the business and if such business is legally shut down, no business operations will continue thus farmers issues with Maseru Dawning will remain unsolved.

“According to the Lesotho laws governing businesses, the ministry should have issued public announcement through different media outlets notifying the public of their plan to have the licence suspended, and not announce their concluded decision. We are talking about a company that had business dealings with many people thus the government needed to allow a notice period so that different clients of the company could come forth to state their business and who the company cannot not suspended with reasons attached,” Aumane explained adding that Shi was not afforded an opportunity to give his side.

“If afforded an opportunity to state his case, he could have pleaded with the Ministry to give time to solve payments issues.

“Businesses according to the law are shutdown legally if there are cases of bankruptcy which are usually applied for by the owners of such a business.

“In this particular case, the owner has not come forth to say he was unable to pay his debts because he was bankrupt,” the MP said revealing that there were sections of the Business Policy that were amended to avoid harsh decisions by the government while attracting investors to trade in Lesotho. 00000000

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