Ministry lobbies for women, youth quotas
GENDER, Youth, Sports and Recreation Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu has called on cabinet to amend the procurement policy to give women and youth a 10 percent advantage over established businesses in the procurement process.
Mr Mokhothu said this was necessary to ensure the profitability and sustainability of fledgling businesses.
The minister said this during a tour of the youth-owned Johane Garments firm in Maseru this week.
“As minister of gender and youth, my main interest in the ongoing process is to ensure that the amended policy has a quota giving youth and women an added advantage in accessing government businesses,” he said.
He said he was also negotiating with different government ministries to give youth-owned businesses first preference when awarding tenders.
“Even in this controversial fleet tender, I still want the youth to have a stake in it and once awarded such tenders, we will write a letter of commitment for them (youth) so they can access financial assistance from the commercial banks,” he said.
Johane Garments was established in 2013 by six youths and the firm is among those that received assistance from the ministry in the last financial year to acquire sewing machines worth M471 000.
The ministry also seconded an accountant, graphic designer and marketing officer to ensure the business remained afloat. The company has 30 employees.
Since then, the firm has secured local as well as customers in neighbouring South Africa.
The minister’s visit came soon after the firm scored a huge business deal with South African firm Talia Management Services Security to supply them with 470 jackets.
“I am also happy that you are now competing with big businesses in South Africa and I want you to take this order as a stepping stone to greater things,” Minister Mokhothu said.
“This is how things are done when people are determined to make something for themselves. We will continue to support you in building your own business profile,” Mr Mokhothu said.
He said the six were a good example of citizens who had gone on to open their own businesses and created employment instead of simply accusing government of failing to create jobs.
“It is my dream to see many firms owned and run by Basotho and you are taking a step in the right direction and I am proud of you,” he said.
For his part, Johane Garments Managing Director Tšepo Johane said starting the business was not easy and at some point the firm even collapsed.
“It was a bumpy road and we experienced our fair share of problems, Mr Johane said, adding, “we had only 16 sewing machines and we have been doing relatively well ever since government gave us 30 more”.
He also said the Trade and Industry Ministry and the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) had also played a significant role in the business’s success. Johane Garments is housed at the Trade and Industry Ministry industrial area.
“Besides housing us, they took us to a South African exhibition and people loved our products, resulting in this big order we are processing today,” Mr Johane said.
He added: “The business is growing so fast that we are even considering engaging another 30 employees for night shifts to ensure that we meet our targets and make our customers happy.”