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Majoro wants security of tenure for SMMEs



MASERU – MINISTER of FINANCE Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro says the government will do its utmost to reduce SMMEs’ lack of security of tenure.
Speaking during his budget speech yesterday, Majoro said absence of security of tenure “prevents these enterprises from investing and expanding their operations even when opportunities present themselves”.

“The Ministry of Local Government will explore policy options for extending security of tenure to these enterprises wherever they are located,” Majoro said.
“Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are the pillar of our economy,” he said.
The minister said the government, with the aim to increase job intake of these enterprises and to expand business opportunities for the youth, will promote and support the establishment of cooperative enterprises.
He also said the government will construct market centres and slaughter houses, and refurbish the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) estates and the Lesotho Cooperatives College.
“To this extent, M211.9 million is proposed to be allocated to the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing,” he said.
The ministry’s recurrent budget is M99.9 million while its capital budget is M112 million.
Turning to the development of the private sector as a whole, Majoro said in an endeavour to support it the Ministry of Trade “will undertake trade and market access facilitation, development of industrial infrastructure at Tikoe and Ha-Belo, and establishment of effective national standards and quality infrastructure”.
“The Ministry will also present to Parliament the Business Licensing and Registration Bill, the Competition Bill and Trade and Tariff Administration Bill,” Majoro said.
“When passed, these bills will simplify trade licensing, reduce uncompetitive firm behaviour, and consolidate the administration of tariffs under the SACU Agreement,” he said.
He proposed M194.8 million for this ministry.

He said the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification programme, which falls under the Ministry of Trade, is spearheading the economic diversification, enterprise assistance and investment climate reform.
“The good work generated in the last decade needs to be scaled up significantly,” he said.
“Building on this, and during the course of the year, government will establish a cabinet-level investment climate reform process similar to that under the Job Summit process,” the minister said.
Majoro said the government “continues to identify tourism as a key pillar of development in its quest to diversify the economy”.
He said during the current financial year, the government will introduce a regulatory regime to promulgate sound tourism legislation to regulate the tourism sector for the benefit of domestic investors.

“In addition, government will review the cost of obtaining a visa and divest its interest in Molimo Nthuse Lodge, Bokong and Liphofung chalets, Thaba-Chitja Island, Sehlabathebe chalets to aid job creation and good upkeep of these facilities,” Majoro said.

“These will be transferred transparently and without any form of conflict of interest to Lesotho tourism investors,” he said.
Majoro said grading of tourism facilities is also on-going to uphold international service standards.
“Government will also complete the revised tourism master plan, tourism investment policy and promotion strategy, and the community-based tourism blueprint,” he said.
He proposed M220.8 million for the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture.

Majoro said the government will also diversify the economy and create jobs by scaling up commercial production of deciduous fruit (peaches, apples, apricots, pears etc) in the country by promoting investment in this new sector.

“The pilot phase of this initiative has demonstrated that Lesotho has comparative advantage over South Africa in terms of quality of produce and time to market, with Lesotho fruits ripening 2-3 weeks earlier than those from South Africa due to favourable climatic conditions,” he said.

“A national suitability map of deciduous fruits has been produced in preparation for the roll out.”
The project is in the process of developing a strong value chain for the sub-sector with focus on strengthening the supply side, removing market barriers and meeting market requirements.
He said the intention is to bring on stream an additional 50 hectares during the current financial year.

Staff Reporter

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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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