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Government pledges to pay farmers

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MASERU – THE government has pledged to settle its debt to beans and maize farmers it owes M8 million.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kemiso Mosenene, made the promise last Friday.
Farmers have been owed since May when the government bought grains from them on credit so that it could feed the poor.
The beans which were bought from the farmers were 484.2 tons while maize was 679.85 tons.

Mosenene said the government will start paying this week.
He said the reason for the delay of payments was that the M15 million budget which was set aside by the government to purchase the food was not enough to pay all the farmers.
“We bought more than we had budgeted,” Mosenene said.
“This will never repeat itself,” he said.
One of the farmers, Patlo Ntšinyi from Thabana-Morena, said he sold 60 kg of beans to the government in April under the agreement to receive the money in two weeks.

He said the money that he was expecting is M1300.
He explained that normally he sells 20 kgs of beans for M600 and she normally gets around M1 800 per 50 kg bag.
Ntšinyi said now he cannot plant because he does not have money to buy seed.
“When I ask them, they would tell me that we will get our money shortly, up until now,” Ntšinyi said.
“When I get the money, it will be of no help because I will have to settle all my debts with it,” he said.

Khotso Pule from Butha-Buthe who sold 20 bags of 50 kg of beans said the government agreed to pay them in two weeks where each kg was M23.
Pule said the money that they get from selling the beans normally helps them to finance the other debts which they incurred when planting those beans and to plant for the following season.
Ha-Lebina residents in Berea are disgruntled following the government’s empty promise as they are still not paid five months down the line.
‘Maleloko Litaba said over 12 residents were owed and each person distributed over 50 kg.

She said she sent eight 20 litres in April with the explanation that she will be paid after two to three months.
“I worked so hard in rainy days to grow those beans and we deserve to be paid,” Litaba said, adding that her family relies on beans to put food on the table and pay her two children’s high school fees.
“My children have needs but I fail to meet them because of the government,” she said.

She said they kept visiting the office in Teya-Teyaneng, where they sent their beans and the response was “the government is broke”.
“Had I known I wouldn’t have bothered to sell to the government.”
Matlakala Takalimane from the same village of Ha-Lebina said she was owed over M1 000.
“I was still planning to give them more but I am not sure anymore after this,” Takalimane said.
Lesia Lebina said he is owed over M7 000.

“I wonder what they expect us to use to plant now that they are still withholding our monies,” Lebina said.
He said it was worse for him as he was the one who encouraged his neighbours to sell to the government.
“Now, they are angry at me,” he said.
Cabinet Principal Secretary, Kabelo Lehora, said Basotho were owed nationally.

Lehora said the government would have paid the farmers by next week.
“We could start paying them tomorrow if indeed the money is available as said,” he said.
He said they stopped requesting beans after realising that their arrears exceeded available money.
“We immediately asked for money. Indeed we are facing a cash crisis and it took longer for us to get it. However, promises were made that once there is money, it will be granted.”

’Mapule Motsopa & Refiloe Mpobole

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Vodacom gives to schools

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MASERU – FIVE schools in Malea-Lea area in Mafeteng received a gift of 20 computers from the Vodacom Lesotho Foundation last Friday.

Vodacom Lesotho has also provided the schools with free unlimited internet as part of its corporate social responsibility.

The company also donated a fully furnished computer laboratory worth M1.2 million, including solar energy to the Malea-Lea community in Mafeteng.

The computer lab will serve Malea-Lea Primary, Litšokeleng Primary, Makhetheng Primary and Botšoela Primary Schools as well as Malea-lea Secondary School.

The principal for Malea-Lea Secondary School, ’Masechaba Sekhesa, said computer studies are in their syllabus and this donation will help the teachers and students to access technology which will in turn improve their education and attract more sponsors in their schools.

“These will also encourage the communities to stop taking their children to schools outside Malea-Lea,” Sekhesa said.

“This will increase the number of students in our schools,” she said.

The Principal of Makhetheng Primary School, Thato Phethoka, said lack of computers has not only affected students’ education but also the teachers who had to spend their money to deliver education. He said in 2020, Covid-19 pandemic knocked them down even more.

He said after the lockdown was introduced in schools, education moved to digital platforms.

“In the absence of electricity in the community coupled with high unemployment which hinders parents from buying phones for their children, we had to find a way to deliver education,” Phethoka said.

“Teachers were forced by circumstances to use their own funds to buy data to do the research and download materials through their phones,” he said.

He said for an average class of 26 students, teachers had to spend their money to print the assignments for students which would cost M2 per copy.

Phethoka said even the computer centre present in Malea-Lea is a one hour walk away which discouraged students.

However, he said the presence of this new facility would help teachers and students to access the internet and research to improve education which is a 30 minutes’ walk from their school.

The Director of Malea-Lea Development Trust Fund, Khotso Au, said they only had 20 computers.

Au said in a day they would have more than 25 students and due to the shortage of computers, some would have to share.

He said the other challenge was that the facility had to buy contract data of 400 GB which cost M1 900.

He said although the facility has donors, it was still challenging to take out that huge sum of money since they also have other projects.

He said the schools’ performance has been bad and this discourages donors since they have to submit reports on students they are sponsoring.

He said he believes the presence of these new computers and access to the internet will help the students to access the internet for research and improve the education in the area.

Vodacom Lesotho’s corporate affairs executive head, Tšepo Ntaopane, said they had provided solar energy to help power the computers. They will also provide the schools with free data.

“We are seeking to give away other computers in other schools and communities to ensure that every Mosotho has access to technology,” Ntaopane said.

“We want to build a technology driven economy,” he said, adding that they are “willing to take out what we have to assist Basotho”.

Refiloe Mpobole

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New mobile filling stations on the cards

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MASERU – THE Petroleum Fund has introduced mobile filling stations that have a higher life span.

The new filling stations have a life span of more than 50 years compared to traditional filling stations that have a life span of around 15 years, according to the Petroleum Fund’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Rorisang Mahlo,

Mahlo said the outstanding features of this new investment include a petroleum tank which is stored in fabricated containers, unlike the traditional filling stations where the petroleum tank is underground.

“This exposure to more chemical reactions shortens the life span,” Mahlo said.

Mahlo said the mobile filling stations are also covered with layers which include the ordinary layer and upper layer which is resistant to fire.

“This makes them more advantageous than the traditional ones,” he said.

He said the traditional filling stations come in one size while the mobile filling stations come in various sizes which make them more business viable and flexible.

In his welcoming remarks, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Petroleum Fund, Thato Mohasoa, said the major objective of the institution is to ensure security supply of petroleum products in the country.

He said they are expected to facilitate the improvement of the distribution and accessibility of those products throughout the country.

Mohasoa said the Petroleum Fund realised that there was a need to assess the extent of the supply shortage of petroleum products in the country.

He said one of the projects that were recommended for consideration were the Mobile Filling Stations in underserviced and remote parts of the country.

He said the mobile filling station is intended to create opportunities for investment and jobs for local people while ensuring the security of supply of petroleum products in the country. He said this will in turn stimulate the country’s economy.

The Operations Manager at Petroleum Fund, Lebohang Makhoali, said the petroleum sector’s needs analysis was completed in 2020 to identify gaps within the Petroleum Fund mandate. Amongst others, a mobile filling station project was recommended.

He said the mobile filling station will increase local ownership and assist in building local capacity and training of local entrepreneurs. He said the estimated capital required to establish a mobile filling station in these sites range from M1.2 million to M1.7 million.

He said this entails the facility infrastructure, a fuel management system and a payment system. Makhoali said these filling stations are best investments for highlands and rural parts of Lesotho since they will not compete with the existing traditional filling stations as a set radius will be determined.

“It is a low investment expenditure compared to a traditional filling station,” he said.

The Petroleum Fund Officer ’Makhauta Fosa said once the policies and regulatory frameworks have been formulated, the companies will be issued with business licenses. However, he said an applicant must have business registration documents as issued by the Registrar of Businesses in Lesotho.

She said before the construction can start, applicants must have a building permit and apply for the certificate of occupancy as the construction continues. Fosa said an applicant must have a supply contract with a licensed oil company.

“A filling station is not allowed to have more than one supplier,’’ she said.

An applicant must submit a written application for a trading licence to the Department of Energy.

Refiloe Mpobole

 

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MMB workers down tools

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MASERU – WORKERS at the Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB) downed tools from Monday this week demanding a 20 percent raise on their salaries.

The MMB’s legal officer, ’Mapulumo Mosisili, however insisted that the strike will not affect the company’s daily operations.

Mosisili said they had “already put in place measures to continue with our job smoothly”.

“We are doing our best to ensure that the strike does not affect us,” Mosisili said.

She said the process started through the Wages Board in August where they tried to explain the company’s financial situation to the workers.

“But it is their right to strike,” Mosisili said. She said the 20 percent increment the workers are demanding is not affordable because “everything has become expensive now, like water and electricity”.

The company had promised a 4.6% salary increment but the workers opposed the proposal

She said no company has given the employees a salary rise above the inflation rate due to a lack of finances.

The MMB workers launched their strike by blocking the company’s gates with trucks and singing protest songs.

One of the songs they were signing while holding their placards says Mona ha rea tlela masaoana, which translates to “We are not here for fun”.

Their placards were written Ha re batle 4.6% e nyane, which translates to “We do not want 4.6% increment because it is too
little”.

Another was written Re kopa moputso o phelisang which translates to, “We are asking for enough salaries to earn a living”.

One of the workers, Mohafa Malefane, said the prices of basic commodities have increased which requires that workers get enough salaries for them to cope.

“He (the employer) says he will offer only 4.6 percent, we do not want that, it is not enough,” Malefane said.

Malefane said they ended up striking because their employer has clarified that he will not give them the 20 percent they are demanding.

He added that last year they received a four percent salary increment.

“It was still below the inflation rate as it was seven percent then,” he said.

He said the striking departments include brewing, packaging, logistics, and utilities.

“It’s just that some workers in the distribution department have turned their backs on us, they are busy working now,” he said.

The employees’ representative, Fokothi Thite, told thepost that the lowest-earning employee gets M2 000.

“If they add their 4.6 percent it will make a difference of only M80. We will not allow that,” Thite said.

He stated that at least the 20 percent they propose will raise their salary from M2 000 to M2 400.

“The salaries we are paid here are spent on transport to bring us to work and take us back to our homes, and nothing else,” he
said.

He also said they approached the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Reconciliation (DDPR) and their management to fix the matter “but no one listened”.

“We will stand here and sing until 2023.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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