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Wool licenses are illegal, farmer

As they vow to protest again

Ntsoaki Motaung

A fresh twist to the lengthy wool and mohair battle surfaced last week when wool farmers accused Small business minister Chalane Phori of deceit following the government’s issuance of wool trading licenses.

The farmers charged that Phori issued trading licenses to companies that don’t qualify.

The Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) spokesperson, Khotsang Moshoeshoe said the issuance of the licenses breached the same enacted wool and mohair regulations.

“Our stand point regarding the government’s response to our petition earlier this year, is that by awarding trading licenses to Maluti Wool and Mohair Centre, Frasers, OVK and BKB, Minister Phori has breached the same laws enacted by his ministry that wool and mohair trading licenses be awarded only to companies owning 10 000 square metres of land on which they will operate brokering and auctioning businesses,” Moshoeshoe charged.         

Moshoeshoe pointed out that the association holds on to its initial position that the government has done nothing to redress the Wool and Mohair regulations of 2018 post the association’s petition to parliament on June 28 this year where they were demanding the regulations to be scrapped altogether.

“There is no significant change to the 2018 regulations suggesting that the government is trying to restore the wool and mohair trade to local ownership because it is still in the hands of a Chinese trader. The government through the Ministry of Small Businesses has removed the most lucrative trade from the hands of local farmers in favour of a Chinese national and we are aggrieved,” he said.

He added, “We have protested and still there are no changes yet. Since our complaints are not addressed, we have resorted to working with international wool and mohair associations to exert more pressure on the Lesotho government to do the right thing.”

He pointed out that their association’s meeting held earlier in August resolved to press ahead with their petition demanding that Legal notice No 65 of 2018 be abolished as it “thwarts the betterment of the wool and mohair farmers’ economic strides”. 

He further expressed hope that the report of the parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee on the wool and mohair stalemate would include a recommendation to scrape the regulation, based on its findings after visiting the place where the commodities are auctioned in Port Elizabeth South Africa.

Moshoeshoe dismissed as lies, any claims by the government that LNWMGA was happy with the new arrangements as it has been indicated by the Minister of Small Businesses after issuing the four new licenses.

“We also distance ourselves from the views that some of LNWMGA Executive Committee members including Teboho Leleka and Minister Phori have leveled that the association members are happy with the awarding of the four new licenses, and to express our dissatisfaction; we are currently planning another march and a general stay away in protest of the 2018 regulations.

“Our aim is to march peacefully to both houses of parliament where we will present our grievances on October 18, thus revoking Minister Phori’s lies,” he indicated.           

When contacted for a comment on the association’s complaints, Phori said he was surprised that the association is only mentioning its displeasure with the awarding of the licenses now after such a long time.  

“This is new and shocking that they are only expressing their dissatisfaction at this stage,” he said.

The Minister however, indicated that the wool and mohair farmers have staged protests before, which serves as an indication that all persons have the right to express their concerns whenever they are aggrieved.

In August, the Lesotho Cabinet Sub-Committee on wool and mohair announced that it had issued trading licenses to the four companies so that they could operate wool and mohair shearing, bulking, storage, brokering and auctioning services in the country.

The move by the government was in response to a general petition by farmers in June this year that the 2018 wool and mohair regulations be abolished, allowing them free market instead of confining them to the embattled ThabaBosiu Wool Centre, perceived to be granting monopoly to a Chinese trader. 

An ad hoc parliamentary committee chaired by Kimetso Mathaba MP has since been established to find a remedy and investigations along with interviews are still in process.   

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