Businessman weeps over loss of beef contract

Businessman weeps over loss of beef contract

MASERU – Politician and businessman Montšuoe Lethoba once enjoyed a healthy business relationship with the Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF). But now there is so much beef between the two parties that they no longer see eye to eye. Lethoba, a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) politician, is crying foul after losing a contract to supply meat to the LDF. Before the March 31 cancellation of the contract, Lethoba’s butchery business used to rely on the army to stay afloat.

For the former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the whole saga stinks and he fears his Leribe Meat Wholesalers business could go under after the LDF stopped buying from him. The contract to supply the army with meat has now been won by Meraka Lesotho, a private company running the National Abattoir. The LDF cancelled the contract with Lethoba after his butchery failed to meet demand. According to the army, when Lethoba did manage to supply beef, the quality was unacceptably poor.

“We told him to improve the quality of meat and he indicated that the problem was with his supplier,” Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, Colonel Tanki Mothae told thepost. “That was not our problem. What we wanted was what we agreed upon and how he met that set standard was up to him,” he said. Col Mothae said the army “was suffering” because Lethoba’s was “failing to deliver on his contractual obligations”.

Lethoba, on the other hand, blames the Minister of Small Businesses Development Chalane Phori for banning the import of red meat into the country and the LDF for slow payments. Phori instructed that all red meat sellers should stock from Meraka Lesotho, which runs the National Abattoir and Feedlot. He also instructed that Meraka Lesotho should buy cattle and sheep for slaughter from local farmers to promote Basotho-owned businesses and create jobs. Lethoba said the ban crippled his business and alleged that Meraka was incompetent.

“This is the same abattoir I competed with when tendering to supply the army with meat and today I am told to buy from it,” Lethoba said, adding that the move could be meant to deliberately cripple his business. “The ban is just a strategy to kick me and others out of the way in order to get Meraka to be the main supplier of meat for the army and monopolise the industry at large,” Lethoba said. Lethoba describes his business voyage with the LDF as “a journey filled with many upheavals”.

“I faced several challenges in this new journey, first being the issue of prices,” Lethoba said. “Initially we had agreed upon buying a kilogram for M48 but within 24 hours (the Meraka Lesotho CEO Mosito) Khethisa told me that his board was not satisfied with that price and changed the price to M49 per kg,” he said.

Lethoba said he used to buy a kg in South Africa for only M33 and he felt that Meraka Lesotho was methodically kicking him out of business. He said Meraka Lesotho did this fully aware that he could not stock meat out of the country after Phori imposed the ban on butcheries. Lethoba said he approached Phori asking for assistance to no avail.

Staff Reporter

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