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THE Maseru City Council (MCC) is lobbying banks and other essential service providers to decline to offer services to people who do not pay their municipal bills.

The MCC spokesperson Lintle Moerane said this would mean that every Maseru resident would be required to produce a payment slip from the council when applying for a loan from a bank.

Under the proposal, a payment slip from the MCC will be a requisite from essential services providers.

Moerane said this would not only be limited to property rates but will include all fees due to the MCC.

She said unless residents and businesses within the municipality area are forced to observe the law and acknowledge their obligations to pay the bills, the MCC will not be able to carry out its mandate of improving the lives of the people of Maseru.

“Some will accuse the MCC of not doing its best to carry out its mandate but how are they expecting the council to work when it does not have funds?” Moerane said.

“We need to raise enough revenue to ensure that all areas under our jurisdiction are clean and safe for everybody and our people should enable the council to raise that needed money.”

“So, nobody should be taken by surprise when the next time they are going to apply for loans the banks require them to produce evidence that they are paying their bills,” she said.

Moerane said they are also lobbying chiefs in villages under the jurisdiction of the MCC not to give services to people who do not honour their obligations to the council “because those villages still require the MCC for various services”.

“Apart from ensuring cleanliness in our villages, there are other services like allocation and digging of graves, which we will not give to a resident who does not pay his bills,” she said.

Moerane said the MCC’s main sources of financial revenue are mainly property rates from government properties and businesses or industrial property rates.

The government, she said, pays faithfully while industrial property owners require to be reminded almost all the time and sometimes with a little push.

“As for the residents, only a minor fraction of them honour their obligations,” she said.

“We are expecting this money to develop Maseru. Also the government pays us money for capital projects. We compile our capital projects and hence the Local Government Ministry makes proposals to parliament,” she said.

“Once that money is approved it goes straight to that project,” she said.

“As for the community members, they do not comply with the Valuation and Rating Act 1980 – they don’t pay property rates despite that they are residing in the municipality area,” Moerane said.

She said if it was not because of the open handed Road Fund that pays for the municipality’s road projects, “we would have a very serious problem as a council when it comes to building of roads”.

“This is because it is a very small percentage of people who pay their bills,” she said.

“If all of us can pay our rates, these projects can be realised,” she said.

She said the law requires that every year all property owners should have their properties valued so that they can pay their rates to the council.

Industrial property owners pay less than three percent of the total value of property, meaning that every year the property should be valued.

If the owner does not value his property, the MCC brings its own expert to value it. Also where there is a dispute over the value of the property, “we bring our own expert”.

The same principle also applies to residential properties although the difference is the percentage paid.

“With the residents, we have decided to take the lowest value of the property in the city and apply it to all residents irrespective of the value of their properties,” she said.

She said even under that arrangement a resident must pay 0.0025 percent of their properties every year “but because we realised that it would be very expensive for them the council decided on a standard rate for all, the one that will be affordable to all”.

She said a resident is required to pay M170 per month.

However, in villages where residents have grouped themselves together and hired a garbage collector they are required to pay only M100.

“It is with the understanding that they are spending the difference on garbage collection,” she said.

“For example, in Masowe the residents are using some of the money for security provision and to us that is very good because we could not afford to do that for them,” Moerane said.

“This provision of hiring a garbage collector, which we call community contracting, is very good and we wish it can be done throughout the entire Maseru city,” she said.


LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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