THE leader of the opposition in parliament, Mathibeli Mokhothu, has accused the Thomas Thabane led government of taking advantage of its numbers in parliament to pass laws that oppress the nation.
Mr Mokhothu also blamed the government for the chaos currently obtaining in the wool and mohair industry where the several farmers are facing starvation due to late payment after selling their fabric through the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC).
Mr Mokhothu, who is also the new leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), said this while addressing his party supporters at a poorly attended Lebakeng constituency rally on Sunday.
He told the close to 200 supporters who gathered for the rally that the opposition had tried to warn the government multiple times about the negative effects of the Wool and Mohair Regulations which were promulgated last year.
Mr Mokhothu said once his party returns to power, it would first repeal the Wool and Mohair Regulations.
The regulations which were gazetted on 4 May 2018 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.
The farmers, for the first time sold their fabric from within the country through the LWC after Lesotho held its first-ever local auction of wool and mohair in November last year.
For the past 44 years, Basotho farmers had been selling their fabric in South Africa through brokers BKB until the promulgation of the Wool and Mohair Regulations of 2018.
However, since selling their fabric through the LWC, some of the farmers say they have been reduced to destitution by the centre’s continued delays to pay them.
Some of the farmers say they have been forced to slaughter their livestock for food while they await the proceeds from the sale of their fabric. The situation has become so dire that others have now resorted to selling off their animals at giveaway prices just to survive.
Most of the farmers endured a dry festive period after failing to receive payments for selling their fabric through the LWC. The furious farmers blasted the centre for failing to fulfill their promise of paying them before Christmas and to date, many farmers remain unpaid.
The controversial regulations have been bitterly opposed by many local farmers who says that they not only deprive them of higher earnings in South Africa but also that they were enacted to benefit Chinese businessman, Stone Shi. The LWC, which auctions the wool and mohair on behalf of the farmers, is a joint venture between the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) and Mr Shi’s Maseru Dawning Trading Company.
The LNWMGA holds 75 percent shares while Maseru Dawning holds the remaining 25 percent in the LWC.
And on Sunday Mr Mokhothu said in passing the Wool and Mohair Regulations of 2018, the government took advantage of its numbers in parliament despite the law “destroying local farming”.
He said the government has departed from its mandate given by the people to protect their interests and is now protecting those of a few people who are in power.
“When they first came with these cruel amendments, we tried to reason with them but they were very pompous telling us that we should quickly finish our arguments so that we go to voting knowing that since they have bigger numbers in parliament, they were going to win and the gazette would be passed,” Mr Mokhothu said.
Mr Mokhothu also blamed the government of destroying the local farming industry through “ruthless laws” and said it was unfortunate that the Lebakeng legislator Semano Sekatle decided to defect from DC to the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).
“I have never seen such government of crooks like this one. The four-party coalition has worked hard to destroy farming in this country instead of using it as a tool to reduce poverty. As congress, we know business and understand that in a democratic country you cannot force people to sell their products where they don’t want to.
“In a democratic country, the nation should be able to sell their products where they see fit and believe can make good profits not forcing people to sell their wool and mohair to some Chinese man (Stone Shi). The government only needs to create a conducive environment not for them to become active players. Those who want to go to Shi have to go there by their own choice and those who want to continue working with BKB should be allowed to do so but when things are done like this, then there is corruption there.
“Your sheep and goats earn you a living and you should be respected for that instead of being forced to sell your fabric to someone just because some privileged people will get some shares from such cruel deals. And look at what is happening now, many of you still haven’t received your money from Stone Shi and some of this wool and mohair it still there in Thaba-Bosiu rotting before reaching the buyers,” Mokhothu said.
Mr Mokhotho said it was so unfortunate that Lebakeng MP Mr Sekatle decided to join such government without thinking about his people.
“Here in Lebakeng you survive on the same farming which this government is destroying and it is shocking that your legislator deserted you when he was supposed to fight for you. But he must know that every deed has its consequences. In the next elections lets go out in even bigger numbers than that 7000.
“The first thing that we are going to do as soon as we get back into power is to repeal that gazette,” Mr Mokhothu concluded