MAKING Lesotho an attractive investment destination requires strong political will and the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in the country.
But those two should be backed by enough resources to push through the reforms urgently needed to make Lesotho an investment destination of choice.
That is the message that came out of a review of the Investor Roadmap last week. Marina Bizabani, Manager Foreign Investments at the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), told participants at the review that political will, support from stakeholders and resources are crucial in the implementation of the reforms suggested in the roadmap.
The roadmap suggests reforms and time-frames for their implementation to create an investor friendly environment.
Some of the policies that put off investors have to do with land tenure, security of investment, regulatory requirements for businesses and labour rules.
Bizabani said there has been some progress in the implementation of some of the reforms as some stakeholders have taken it upon themselves to nudge decision-makers into action.
“We are already seeing some giving their support,” Bizabani said.
She added that the review affords them a chance to hear and see what their counterparts are doing “so that we know where to improve to complement each other as our agencies and ministries are integrated”.
Bizabane said it is also important to share information “to best utilise the limited resources for maximum results and ensure that no one is left behind”.
She said although there is still a long way to go, this year there seems to be a lot of progress compared to the previous year when the review revealed that there was very little happening on the ground.
“We are going somewhere,” Bizabane said.
Speaking at the opening of the review workshop, the LNDC CEO Kelebone Leisanyane said there were 50 recommendations on improving investment climate and Lesotho’s rankings in the world in terms of the ease of doing business and operations.
Leisanyane said the recommendations were made with the help of the United States AID (USAID) Trade Hub.
He added that the successful implementation of the recommendations will unlock growth and development in other aspects of Lesotho’s investment landscape.
“My wish is that in the past year we have addressed the challenges that were highlighted following the audit and will take motivation from them to fast-track our reforms going forward,” Leisanyane said.
“The review is more crucial also considering that this year it is the last year of the current NSDP (National Strategic Development Plan) which prioritised investment climate reforms to enable participation of the private sector in creating jobs and spurring economic growth,” he said.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Majakathata Mokoena-Thakhisi, said reforms are good initiatives but they are also challenging to implement.
Mokoena-Thakhisi further indicated that the reforms were of high priority as they would have enabled the government to create the 50 000 jobs stipulated in the NSDP.
“The NSDP prioritised the investment climate reforms agenda as a prerequisite programme which required speedy implementation for achieving the creation of 50 000 private sector driven jobs during 2012/2013- 2016/2017,” Mokoena-Thakhisi said.
Mokoena-Thakhisi said progress in implementing the reforms has been sluggish.
“It is important to note that progress in implementation of the investor roadmap climate reforms has been slow, both on the basis of NSDP and the Lesotho Investor Roadmap benchmarks,” he said.
He urged the concerned stakeholders to integrate the reforms in their budgets so that they can have funds to put them into motion.
“Integrate the reform areas activities in your budgets so as to allocate the requisite resources for speedy implementation and this should be seen as a long-term government agenda,” Mokoena-Thakhisi said.
“Our country needs to aim high in setting targets for performance in international benchmarks with increased innovations of best practices to ease doing business for SMMEs and foreign investors,” he said.
Mokoena-Thakhisi added that fast-tracking reforms will also play a key role in decreasing the escalating unemployment rates among youths and enable the private sector to create jobs and high quality products.
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.
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.
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.
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