Matekane has big dreams for Berea
- vows to turn district into hub for medical cannabis production,
- locals will be supported to participate in lucrative farming ventures.
BEREA district, a hub for illicit dagga production, could soon specialise in the lawful production of medical cannabis in the event of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) winning the October elections and forming the next government.
Addressing a massive 4000-plus crowd of RFP supporters in Ha-Ntjabane, Berea this week, RFP leader Sam Matekane said his party would capacitate locals to venture into the lucrative production of medical cannabis. He said an RFP government would do this by providing seedlings and providing local markets for their produce.
“We know that Berea is famous for growing dagga but when we form government, you will not have to get into shady transactions like you are always doing,” Mr Matekane said.
“You shall never have to cross rivers to transport your dagga at night because we are going to give you the recommended seedlings for medical cannabis which will help you to venture into the lucrative business and enhance your livelihoods.
“You will never be robbed again as is currently the case. You won’t be stuck with your produce as you will know exactly where to take it after production because as soon as we form government, your cannabis will be sold legally and locally too,” Mr Matekane added.
With Lesotho being the first African country to legalise the production of cannabis for medicinal purposes back in 2017, the country had been touted as an ideal base for export production.
However, the government has previously raised concern that many licence holders were failing to start production. Instead, several holders had allegedly secured the licences for speculative purposes intending to sell the highest bidders.
In 2019, then Health Minister, Nkaku Kabi, said only four out of 140 licensees had started production. Only 10 companies are currently believed to be producing medical cannabis.
Among others, high licence fees pegged by the government at M500 000 annually have deterred holders from starting production in the capital-intensive sector.
The lack of a domestic market also means that local producers must meet strict international standards to sell internationally.
Among other business ventures, Mr Matekane is himself into medical cannabis production through his company, Verve Dynamics Incorporated.
It remains to be seen if an RFP government, if elected, would help Lesotho to realise its potential to become a top medical cannabis producer in Africa and the world in general.
At the same Berea rally, Mr Matekane also promised to tackle high unemployment which has bred poverty, crime and a host of other social ills.
“We have a large pool of graduates who don’t have jobs though they were hopeful of being hired after completing their studies. With the help of an RFP government, our business people will create jobs to enable us to cut the high unemployment rate. Job creation will help to grow our economy,” he said.
As has become the norm in his addresses to rural communities, the RFP leader promised to tackle rampant stock theft by inserting micro-chips into livestock to enable them to be tracked by their owners.
“We shall ensure that micro-chips are inserted in animals and linked to their owners’ mobile phones. They will also be linked to the police’s stock theft unit to enable them to stop the thieves in their tracks.”
Wool and mohair farmers’ interests would also be catered for by an RFP government, Mr Matekane said.
He promised to remove all restrictions and allow them to sell their produce either locally or internationally to their preferred buyers.
Back in 2018, the Thomas Thabane-led coalition approved the draconian Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Amendment Regulations which prohibited farmers from selling their wool and mohair from outside Lesotho as they had done for four decades. The regulations also forced 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, preferred selling their fabric via South African brokers among them BKB saying they are assured of quick and higher payments than those from the LWC.
A year later, massive protests by aggrieved farmers resulted in the previous government amending the draconian regulations to allow farmers to resume exports of their produce through BKB and other brokers.
Speaking at the Berea rally, Mr Matekane promised that his government would remove any lingering restrictions to allow farmers full freedom regarding their wool and mohair.
“There should be a free market. Where and how much you sell your wool and mohair is your business; no one should tell you otherwise,” he said, adding his government would help farmers procure high quality rams and ewes for breeding purposes.
All this would be possible if the electorate resoundingly voted for the RFP to enable it to form government on its own. That way, they would be able to fully implement their development agenda without any of the obstacles which come with being part of a coalition of various and often conflicting political parties, Mr Matekane said.
“The successful implementation of our policies will only be possible if we govern alone. We want to govern alone because we don’t want to blame anyone in the event of our failure to implement.”
Mr Matekane also bemoaned the escalation of “senseless killings” of innocent people, especially women, girls and the elderly.
“We appeal to those committing such acts to stop immediately. We want every Mosotho to feel safe and live peacefully in this country,” he said.