Agric Minister demoted

Agric Minister demoted

MASERU – THE Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Likopo Mahase, has paid the price for the chaos in the distribution of fertilizer and seeds to farmers.
Mahase was the only victim of an abrupt reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro yesterday.

He has been ‘demoted’ to a less influential post of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Mahase was replaced by Water Minister Nkaku Kabi, a staunch Majoro loyalist.
Kemiso Mosenene who was a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office replaced Kabi as Water Minister.
Buta Moseme confirmed the reshuffle last night.

Mahase has been battling to contain a disaster after the Ministry of Agriculture failed to supply fertilizer and seed to farmers.
Adding to his misery were the allegations that some 4 000 bags of fertilizer had disappeared from the ministry’s warehouse in Ha Foso.
The fertilizer is alleged to have been pilfered by ministry officials. The police have launched an investigation.

Mahase has however vehemently denied the allegations and dared those making the accusations to bring proof so the police can investigate.
The government is subsidising fertilizer and seed to help farmers, most of whom cannot afford the commercial prizes. The idea is to help farmers grow their own food and ultimately improve the country’s food security.
But midway through the planting season, Lesotho faces acute shortages of fertilizer and seed.

The ministry has admitted that it is struggling to meet the demand and has started rationing the inputs. This week the ministry said it would be selling the inputs to block farmers only for the next seven days.
The initiative has also been mired in allegations of corruption and fraud.
There are claims that some ministry and senior government officials are jumping the queue to buy the inputs in bulk to sell on the black market.
Some farmers have complained that officials at the storeroom are prioritising ministers, senior government officials and other politically connected people.

There are also some unconfirmed reports that some of the fertilizer and seeds are being smuggled to farmers in South Africa who are ready to pay a premium.
Mahase was reshuffled just as he appeared to be getting on top of the situation.
Apart from rationing the inputs, the ministry has also appointed a private company to manage the distribution.
But those moves appear to have failed to mollify Majoro who is keen to appease the farmers ahead of a key election next year.

Staff Reporter

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