LESOTHO Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, has demanded that the leader of the National Assembly, Monyane Moleleki, sets up special committee to fully investigate the wool and mohair saga where he feels farmers have been shortchanged by the government and deprived of meaningful income from their produce.
Mr Metsing said the special committee should be set up within a week from now and investigate all aspects of the wool and mohair issue, which he called “the biggest scandal since Lesotho attained its independence in 1966”.
The former deputy premier also wants the government to issue wool and mohair farmers permits to export their produce to the countries of their choice in line with the two recent High Court judgements which nullified the regulations that prohibited the framers from selling their produce outside Lesotho as they had done for 44 years until 2018.
On 4 April 2019, Acting Judge Moroke Mokhesi dismissed as “null and void and of no force and no effect” regulations which came into effect last year making it illegal for farmers to sell their produce in South Africa through their preferred brokers, BKB.
Justice Mokhesi ruled that the May 2018 regulations were in contravention of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1967 which allowed farmers to sell their wool and mohair to wherever they chose and through the brokers of their choice. The Ministry of Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing were the respondents in the case.
“It is declared that the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations No. 65 of 2018 are null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that they are ultra vires (in contravention of or outside the powers stated in the) Agricultural Marketing Act of 1967,” Justice Mokhesi ruled.
The net effect of the ruling was to restore the status quo as it existed before the promulgation of the 2018 regulations where farmers could sell their wool and mohair from South Africa or any other place of their choice.
Justice Mokhesi delivered the verdict in the long-drawn-out case brought to the High Court by the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA).
Justice Mokhesi’s judgement was reinforced by a 6 May 2019 order by fellow judge, Justice Semapo Peete, directing the government to issue permits to the farmers to enable them to export their produce to destinations of their choice.
Justice Peete issued the order after one of the wool and mohair entities, Mahloenyeng Trading, petitioned the court to declare as unlawful, the ministry’s decision to reject applications for export permits.
The farmers are still waiting on the government for the permits weeks after the court judgements.
Speaking at a weekend rally in Khafung, Berea, Mr Metsing said that Mr Moleleki, in his capacity as the leader of the national assembly, must urgently set up a special parliamentary committee to address the wool and mohair saga.
“The wool and mohair saga is the biggest scandal since Lesotho attained its independence in 1966 and therefore it needs to be dealt with expeditiously.
“Now that parliament has re-opened, we earnestly appeal to Mr Moleleki, that as the leader of the house and chairperson of the Business Committee, he must set up a special committee to look into issues surrounding the wool and mohair saga before the introduction of the Agricultural Marketing (wool and mohair regulations) of 2018,” Mr Metsing said, adding there were several issues that needed to be investigated including corruption and possible money laundering. He however did not say who he suspected of money laundering.
Contacted for comment, Mr Moleleki this week said he would look into the wool and mohair issue and “give it the attention it deserves once it is tabled in parliament”.
Mr Metsing has also reiterated his call for a government of national unity (GNU) as the best way out of the instability wrought on Lesotho by the infighting in the main party of the governing coalition, the All Basotho Convention (ABC).
Mr Metsing also repeated his call for a government of national unity (GNU), saying it was better placed than the current governing coalition to help Prime Minister Thomas Thabane make informed decisions on matters of national interest.
He said despite its infighting, Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) should be part of the GNU because the party’s views “matter and they have to be considered for the stability of the country.
“Each time I raise the issue of a GNU, most people think that I am only being ambitious and don’t have an idea of what I am talking about. They forget that I have walked this journey before and I know exactly what I am talking about and therefore I appeal to the ABC to know there will not be left out of a GNU that would be formed.
“We need a leadership which shall deal with this country’s challenges together. We have to get to a point where we all accept that at some point we have all erred and no one is better than the other. Instead of things getting better, Lesotho is deteriorating and the only way to fix things is to have a GNU,” Mr Metsing said.
The LCD also used the occasion to commemorate the late party leader and former premier Dr Ntsu Mokhehle.
“The journey of freedom is not an easy one and we have to come up with a formula to emancipate both the oppressed and the oppressor. Today we are all here because of the sacrifices that Ntate Ntsu Mokhehle had to go through,” Mr Metsing said. He and other party members laid wreaths at the grave of Dr Mokhehle.