Stop chaos in the mining sector

Stop chaos in the mining sector

ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a story detailing the chaos rocking Lesotho’s mining sector.
The account clearly shows that the key sector is in deep distress and requires urgent corrective measures to save it.
What is clear from the stories is that some of the mines appear to be victims of political thuggery.
And all they are seeking now is protection from their own government.

The mines argue they have done all they can to assist communities in areas in which they do business. Yet the backlash has not subsided.
The pressure has, instead, been relentless and fierce.
Much more worrying in this embroglio is the presence of what appears to be shady characters who are not afraid to unleash violence in pursuit of a narrow agenda for self-enrichment.
That is really worrying.

Also of concern is the role of a civil society which the mining sector believes is fuelling the discord between the mines and the villagers.
The mines, on the other hand, believe civil society is pushing this rabid agenda to justify their continued existence to donors.
We believe the chaos in the mining sector must stop if Lesotho is to reap benefits from this critical sector.

There is no doubt that the mining sector, if well managed, can be an engine that can drive Lesotho’s economic growth.
That can only happen if the mines are allowed the space and freedom to operate without some uncouth characters working day and night to undermine progress.
We only need to look no further than our neighbor, Botswana, to see the impressive economic gains that can come if we manage our mineral resources intelligently.
The government of Botswana has kept its eyes on the ball in pursuit of real development for its own people. It has not allowed itself to be sidetracked by individuals seeking glory for themselves.
We too can learn great lessons from Botswana on how to manage our vast mineral wealth.

There is no doubt that Lesotho desperately needs foreign direct investment, particularly in the mining sector. This will result in the creation of thousands of jobs for Basotho.
It will also boost the fiscus in terms of taxes and dividends to the government.
Any chaos in the sector will likely disrupt production and frighten investors. No one wants such an outcome.

The government of Lesotho must therefore urgently intervene and stop the chaos in the mining sector.
Secondly, it would be preposterous to think it is the responsibility of companies to look after communities.
That may sound crude. But that is the reality.

It is the government’s responsibility, through its social welfare programmes, to look after its own people.
The sooner the people and civil society are disabused of this notion that it is the responsibility of companies to look after their developmental needs, the better.

The companies are already paying taxes, royalties and dividends to the government. The government must use these resources to care for these marginalised communities.
By pushing these companies to the edge by insisting they build roads for communities, we risk driving away these investors, with fatal consequences for Lesotho.
Even if these villagers feel aggrieved, they should not take matters into their own hands.

Violence, in any form, should have no place in a democratic society such as ours. In fact, the police must act swiftly to bring the perpetrators of violence to book.

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