Kholumo kicked out of parliament

Kholumo kicked out of parliament

MASERU – QALO MP, Thabang Kholumo, was kicked out of parliament on Thursday after insisting that there were problems in the wool and mohair sector. Kholumo, who is also the deputy leader of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), wanted to discuss the plight of wool and mohair farmers when the Deputy Speaker Teboho Lehloenya called him to order.

Kholumo was arguing that regulations gazetted by the government last month would work against farmers.
Lehloenya however retorted the issue was not on the parliament’s agenda for that day. Lehloenya said Kholumo, a former trade unionist, should sit down. When Kholumo refused to comply Lehloenya ordered him to leave the House. “I told you to get out. Get out!”

Opposition MPs then jumped to Kholumo’s defence. The opposition held a press conference at the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) offices where they criticised the government’s decision to force farmers to sell their wool and mohair to a Chinese businessman. The opposition alleged that the businessman had strong links with some senior officials in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government.

“These regulations are meant to elbow out wool and mohair growers and a company called BKB from business altogether,” said Motlalentoa Letsosa, a senior Democratic Congress (DC) official. “The government or this Chinese of theirs do not have sheep and goats for wool and mohair in Lesotho,” he said. “Shearing studs are managed by farmers through their cooperative societies but now these regulations criminalise the management of shearing studs through cooperative societies.”

He said it is sad that farmers who are running the shearing studs in the villages through their community societies are breaking the law and could be fined M20 000 if convicted or jailed for two years or both. The opposition is also angry that the Minister of Agriculture, Mahala Molapo, has made regulations that criminalise the export of wool and mohair without the involvement of Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre. The centre is managed by a Chinese man, Stone Shi, through his Maseru Downing Company which has an agreement with the National Wool and Mohair Growers Association.

“This means Basotho are being bundled on the side-line in favour of this Chinese,” Letsosa said. The opposition described the regulations as “very unfair and uncaring”. He said the sale of wool and mohair was the responsibility of the Ministry of Small Businesses not the Ministry of Agriculture. “The Agriculture Minister has done these regulations to the Small Businesses Minister and that is against the law,” Letsosa said. “They are abusing their power on poor Basotho.

They have not even gone to these people and heard from them but they have just decided to stop them from selling their wool where they want.” “We are very much concerned about the way the government is handling this issue. It seems that they want the farmers and BKB to quit this business.” Former Speaker and MP for Hloahloeng, Ntlhoi Motsamai, said she has always been concerned about this issue because people in her constituency make a living from wool and mohair.

“They only earn their living through farming and selling of wool and mohair,” Motsamai said. “So, if things like these continue to happen they will struggle. The government is in a hurry to make regulations yet they have not spoken to the farmers.” She said the government should respect the wishes of the farmers. The Senqu Constituency MP Likeleli Tampane said she is shocked with the way the government is treating the farmers. “This government does not care about people’s livestock. Back in 2016 soldiers were placed at the borders to prevent the thieves from the nearby country but now those soldiers are back in the barracks,” Tampane said.

“This means they do not like livestock but they want their wool and mohair so that they make their own money.” Government spokesman Nthakeng Selinyane dismissed the opposition’s allegations. He said there was nothing unlawful about the regulations. He said the Minister of Agriculture was legally entitled amend the regulations. “These are not new regulations but amendments made by the Ministry of Agriculture.

It is therefore not correct to say the Ministry of Agriculture made the regulations from the Ministry of Small Businesses or the Ministry of Trade,” Selinyane said. “You will recall that in the past the department of marketing and cooperatives fell under the Ministry of Agriculture and the ministry made regulations for the department. Now when the department is under the Ministry of Small Businesses the regulations remain the property of the Ministry of Agriculture”.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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