LESOTHO Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, has threatened to move a vote of no confidence motion against the Thomas Thabane government over its alleged failure to abide by the High Court ruling on the export of wool and mohair.
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 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.
The farmers are still waiting on the government for the permits weeks after the court judgements.
Speaking at a weekend rally in Semena, Thaba-Tseka district, Mr Metsing said the government should respect the court rulings and allow the farmers freedom to trade in their produce as they chose.
He said failure to do so would leave the opposition with no choice but to move a motion of no confidence once parliament resumed its sittings.
“The government must respect farmers or else we will be forced to act if they do not heed the court judgements on the wool and mohair issue,” Mr Metsing said, adding, “We will have no option but to move a no confidence motion”.
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.
It line with the rulings, Mr Metsing demanded that the government “respects the rights of farmers or face a no confidence vote”.
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 the governing coalition was especially weakened by the infighting within the ABC. The ABC is the main partner in the coalition which also features the AD, BNP and RCL.
“The leading party (ABC) already has its own problems and these are spilling into the government. But if there was a GNU, service delivery would not be affected by the infighting in one political party. The GNU is the only way out of our problems as a country. Allow us to help you with your burden of governing and that will unite this fragmented nation,” Mr Metsing said.
He also called for a truth and reconciliation commission, saying all the parties including the LCD had to shoulder the blame for instability in the country.
“The nation is hurting and more than 40 people have died at the hands of the police to date. How many lives would have been lost by 2022 if things remain unchanged? The government should just accept that it has failed,” Mr Metsing said.
The next scheduled general elections are due in 2022.