This is a reactionary intervention!

This is a reactionary intervention!

By Nkareng Letsie

THE Consumer Protection Association (CPA) acknowledges that Lesotho should not be turned into a dumping zone for goods that are deemed unsafe for developed economies.

However, we wish to express our shock that the government is using intuition not evidence to address this matter.

Various media publications recently reported that the Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry Joshua Setipa intends to introduce regulations that will bar the importation of some cars from Japan, Singapore and China.

joshua setipaWe are surprised to realise that the government deems South Africa not to be dumping their cars in Lesotho. We believe that the government should use state resources to ensure that the socio-economic policies are optimal in order to ascertain economic development of Lesotho.

The only problem with our government is that it prefers reactionary interventions such as the one proposed to be effected on the 1st August 2016.

Lesotho should have had a regulatory framework to regulate the importation of vehicles way before it embraced free trade. There is no need for this intervention to be hurried as if there is pressure coming from external bodies to ban the importation of cars from Japan.

We are afraid this government policy is addressing symptoms and not the root causes associated with importation of second hand cars from anywhere in the world.

We appeal to the government to abandon the roadmap of having the restrictions implemented by the 1st of August and investigate the matter thoroughly in order to come up with a sustainable solution.

The government has failed to ensure that road construction and maintenance is done using the Lesotho Road Management System.

The government has also been silent when roads constructed in Lesotho are not maintained on a regular basis. There is virtually no difference between paved and unpaved roads due to poor conditions of constructed roads.

We challenge the government to prove that the roads built in Lesotho are in good condition for sedan cars that consumers have paid their hard earned money to import into the country.

The problem of accidents cannot solely be blamed on the fact that vehicles imported from Japan are not roadworthy. The whole system of testing road-worthiness has collapsed; vehicles are only tested lights in all the three test centres.

The government should find a way of abolishing corruption in the testing centres in order to ensure that only roadworthy vehicles are on the roads.

People who bought cars in the twentieth century still drive them having taken them for testing when they first registered them.

They have been renewing their licences and permits without any requirement for them to be retested. This clearly shows that our government puts revenue before people’s safety.

The government cannot unequivocally declare that all people who drive cars have licences or those with licences are fit to drive cars.

It is therefore improper to say second hand cars from Japan, China and Singapore are the ones that are causing accidents. If they cause accidents, we should be told the proportion of accidents caused by these cars not a blanket statement without validating data.

We demand that the government conducts a thorough needs assessment before imposing an ill-informed ban on imported cars. The study should be able to back the allegations that cars imported beyond South Africa are not roadworthy and cause accidents.

The process of developing policies should be participatory and inclusive of all stakeholders. Bureaucrats and politicians should not monopolise policy making space especially when intuition not evidence is used to develop those policies.

Section 20 of the constitution of Lesotho provides for citizens or special interest groups to play a role in policy development. We urge the government to use this principle to make informed policies that will help drive economic development.

Lesotho does not have standards to govern the quality of motor vehicles imported or produced for Basotho consumers. This being the case, whose standards are we going to apply on imported vehicles?

We cannot subject imported goods to arbitrary standards but to well-informed standards developed with the economic development and safety of consumers in mind.

As a way of developing the standard that is of best interest to Basotho’s health, we urge the government to impose a ban on all vehicles, whether pre-owned or brand new, which do not have airbags as a safety precaution.

It is totally unacceptable in this day and age that car manufacturers mainly in South Africa still consider airbags a luxury.

The government should also help transform public transport in order to reduce use of personal cars.

If Lesotho had a well-developed public transport system people would never be compelled to buy cars. This should be complemented by abolishing saloon cabs (4+1) that are causing congestion of traffic.

Such cabs are a nuisance in causing unpleasant noise in our towns and villages with their hooters.

An efficient and reliable public transport system will go a long way towards reducing consumers’ carbon footprints.

We, the consumers, urge the government to establish the standards of commodities to be consumed in Lesotho, be it other consumer goods, and motor vehicles. For if we have standards that we adhere to, there would not be a reason to say the cars should be exposed to pre-inspection but the sellers would see to it that they conform to our standards.

We therefore urge the government to work with all the stakeholders and interested groups to establish and develop standards which will govern the quality of cars imported in Lesotho and ensure that they are acceptable according to established standards geared towards protecting Basotho.

Otherwise there will be no basis for pre-testing as the sellers will not know the conditions that their merchandise will be subjected to upon arrival in Lesotho.

It would be very unfair on consumers to be told that their vehicles are not roadworthy while the government has not published the standards and educated the citizens about them.

It is high time that we develop universally applicable standards not statements targeted at commodities originating from certain countries.

Cars are not the only goods being dumped into the country and we urge our government to ensure that other commodities are not imported into the country having passed their sell-by dates.

It has come to our attention that retailers of Asian descent buy goods that are almost at their sell-by dates in wholesales in order to sell them to consumers.

This simply means that any antidumping regime for Lesotho should be broad enough to cover other goods.

 

  • Nkareng Letsie is the director of the Consumer Protection Association
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