DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu has called for the revocation of the “draconian wool and mohair regulations that have left many farmers impoverished”.
Mr Mokhothu said if the government fails to get rid of the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Amendment Regulation of 2018, the prime minister and the responsible ministers would account for their actions when the DC comes to power.
Mr Mokhuthu said this while addressing party supporters at a rally in Mekaling Constituency, Mohale’s Hoek on Sunday.
He said once in power, the DC would set up a commission to probe the irregularities within Lesotho’s wool and mohair trading.
Mr Mokhothu said they expect the parliamentary ad hoc committee on wool and mohair to recommend the abolishment of the sub-ordinate law.
The committee, chaired by Independent National Party (NIP) leader Kimetso Mathaba, was formed in June this year to investigate the farmers’ grievances regarding the sale of wool and mohair in the aftermath of the 2018 regulations.
The committee was formed at the instigation of Mahobong legislator and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing. Mr Metsing proposed that an ad hoc committee be formed to attend to the wool and mohair farmers’ frustrations over the regulations that they say were a hinderance to the smooth running of the industry that has sustained over 200 000 Basotho over the past 40 years.
The controversial 2018 regulations, prohibit the farmers from selling their wool and mohair from outside Lesotho as they had done for over 40 years until 2018. They also compel the farmers to sell their produce via the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) in Thaba Bosiu, a joint venture between wool and mohair farmers and Chinese owned Maseru Dawning. The farmers control 75 percent while Maseru Dawning controls the remaining 25 percent.
The farmers however, prefer selling their fabric via South African brokers among them BKB saying they are assured of quick and higher payments than those from the LWC.
Since the advent of the regulations, the farmers say speedy payments are a thing of the past. In July this year, thousands of farmers petitioned parliament to revoke the regulations saying they have impoverished them.
The regulations also forbid anyone from trading in wool and mohair without a licence from the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing. They also stipulate that all the transactions should be done from Lesotho.
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Addressing the Sunday rally, Mr Mokhothu called the current government “thieves” whose regulations were against open international trade.
“This government of thieves has taken away the people’s freedom of choice to trade your wool and mohair and handed it to a Chinese man,” Mr Mokhuthu said.
“And now, that man has disappeared without finishing payment of all farmers’ proceeds from last season’s fabric sale.
“But the DC has always maintained a clear stance that the government should do away with its draconian regulations to allow the farmers to trade their fabric with their chosen broker.
“Very soon a report by the ad hoc committee will be tabled in parliament and if it does not recommend the scrapping of the regulations, the DC will not support it.
“The government should excuse itself from the trade of wool and mohair.”
He said if the government fails to act on the regulations, the DC would set up an enquiry into the matter once it assumes power.
“If the government does not reverse this policy, when we assume power, we will set up a commission to investigate the irregularities within the trade of wool and mohair.
“Among other things, the investigation will establish who the fabric was sold to, the terms of sale, cost per unit, how much each farmer was supposed to receive, how much has been paid in total against how much and why others have not been paid.
“We will start with the premier and his minsters to tell us where the fabric is. We will not be party to a government which has mercilessly stolen the peoples’ livelihoods.”
Contacted for comment, LWC managing director Stone Shi refuted claims that he had fled the country. He also said they have paid all the farmers.
“It is not true, I am always here,” Mr Shi said.