THE Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) recently foiled an attempt to smuggle red meat worth M24 000 at the Calendonspoort Border gate in Butha-Buthe.
LRA public relations manager Pheello Mphana this week told the Lesotho Times that a company, whose identity the LRA has decided to withhold, attempted to smuggle the meat by hiding in a truck that was transporting processed meat into Lesotho.
Mr Mphana said they seized the meat consignment after it was detected by LRA scanners at the border gate. He said the discovery of the contraband proved that that the LRA scanners were functional and would-be smugglers would always be caught out.
Mr Mphana spoke to the Lesotho Times in the wake of recent allegations by the managing director of Meraka Abattoir, Mosito Khethisa, that there were mining companies that bought meat that had been smuggled into Lesotho by some South African companies.
The mining companies however, flatly denied the allegations. Early this year, the government banned the importation of red meat into the country in a move it said was aimed at capacitating the local meat industry.
The move was however, met with criticism, with the opposition accusing the government of enacting the ban to ensure that Lesotho’s only abattoir, Meraka, enjoys an unfettered monopoly as the sole importer and supplier of red meat in Lesotho.
Meraka Abattoir however, refutes these allegations and in a recent interview with this publication, Mr Khethisa said the abattoir’s business had suffered due to the smuggling of red meat into the country by South African suppliers.
Mr Khethisa sensationally claimed that the three diamond mining companies were being supplied with smuggled red meat. He made the allegations in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times.
He said that the criminal acts by the South African suppliers, who mostly used the Calendonspoort Border Gate in Butha-Buthe, had seriously affected his company’s viability.
The LRA has since denied the claims. Mr Mphana said the mining giants had very clear policies for declaring their goods at the border and that they have never been caught smuggling red meat into Lesotho.
“The mining companies declare their goods way before they arrive at the border gates and on arrival, we inspect the trucks to see if what has been declared on paper is what is being imported into Lesotho.
“There has never been any reported case of red smuggling involving the mines. However, there have been reported cases of smuggling of red meat into Lesotho and we investigate such claims through the use of our mobile scanners found at every border post.
“We have had a case of red meat smuggling into the country but it was not the mines. It was by a company whose name we cannot disclose because of confidentiality issues but the red meat was hidden within packages of processed meats (which can be imported into Lesotho). Our scanners picked it…and I can confirm that we recently seized red meat worth M24 000 in Butha-Buthe,” Mr Mphana said.