Molapo blames politricks for wool chaos

Molapo blames politricks for wool chaos

MASERU – MAHALA Molapo, the Minister of Agriculture, has accused fellow MPs of playing petty politics that resulted in delays in paying wool and mohair farmers.
Grilled by the parliamentary interim committee probing corporate malfeasance in the wool and mohair industry last Friday, Molapo said the MPs pushed to block the products from getting into South Africa through the Maseru border.
Molapo did not mention the MPs by name but inferred that Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) MP Teboho Sekata was one of those behind the push.
“I wonder where you were on that day Honourable Member,” Molapo said, pointing at Sekata who is part of the ad hoc committee.

Earlier, Small Business Minister Chalane Phori had mentioned Sekata, Democratic Congress (DC) spokesman Serialong Qoo and some leaders of the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) as pushing to block Lesotho’s wool and mohair from crossing into South Africa.
Phori told the committee that these men were at the border gate insisting that trucks transporting wool and mohair should not cross.

Molapo told the committee last Friday that it is this incident that worsened the delay to pay farmers who sent their wool and mohair to Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre.
He said the government’s initiative to have wool and mohair sold locally was meant to benefit farmers.
He said the South African-based broker, BKB, which has dealt with Basotho farmers for the past 40 years, used to cheat locals. BKB has consistently denied this allegation.
The minister said the government has a role in ensuring that farmers’ animals are well cared for and shearing studs are in a good condition to increase the quality of products.

Molapo also talked about Stone Shi, a controversial Chinese businessman at the centre of the dispute in the wool and mohair industry.
He said government officials, together with the farmers, travelled to China to meet the businessman running a business called Maseru Dawning.
He said the Chinese businessman also met the farmers’ association.
He said the farmers’ association once visited his office when he was new in the ministry in 2017 to tell him about their plans.

Molapo said the farmers told him that they had moved forward with their plan and they also had their own building.
“I then asked the farmers if their storeroom was big enough for machines that wash the product,” he said.
He said the response was that the project was feasible.
Molapo informed the parliamentary committee that farmers even told him that they had a partner from China.
He said during their annual conference the farmers introduced the businessman and gave him a platform to make speech.
“So that was when the government advised itself that the product be sold in Lesotho so that the country could benefit out of it.”

“I like the idea that the product be sold in Lesotho as it is one of the most important precious fibres,” Molapo said.
“I could not understand why some Basotho claimed the regulations were not good,” he said.
He said he supported the regulations and travelled around to talk to farmers in the districts.
He said some farmers politicised the move, saying the Chinese businessman would cheat Basotho.
“Yet most wool and mohair is taken to China and many buyers also come from China,” he said.
He said farmers “are being brainwashed so that they don’t know the truth”.
“The government is trying to join the international market like other countries but there are some people badmouthing the idea.”

“Some people are joining forces in sabotaging the good idea.”
He said delays in paying some farmers had caused a lot of frustration among farmers and other stakeholders.
He said a recent report showed that 90 percent of farmers have been paid.
The minister testified that he had also received his payment.
“I queued at the bank and for the first time l got M15, 900,” Molapo said.

He said there is evidence that payments have been done and that the delay was deliberately caused by some people who wanted to politicise the issue.
Molapo said these people influenced BKB to persuade a wool testing company to ban the product from Lesotho from being tested.
He said the delaying tactics were caused by some MPs who wanted to blame the Chinese.

Nkheli Liphoto

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