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Anger over new wool rules

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…Farmers accuse Phori of rehashing hostile regulations….

MASERU– FARMERS are bracing for Round Two of their grueling and long-drawn battle with Small Businesses Minister, Chalane Phori.
Phori is on collision course with farmers after he allegedly ignored a parliamentary committee’s recommendation to make drastic changes to the controversial wool and mohair regulations he introduced last year.
The farmers say Phori has just rehashed the contentious 2018 regulations instead of binning them altogether. They say the new regulations are stuffed with the old hostile clauses that make it difficult to sell their wool and mohair.

Even the new clauses, the farmers say, are equally nocuous as they add new bureaucratic layers that only delay the sale of their fibre.
They say Phori’s proposed amendment reinstate the same clauses they have been fighting against for the past year and are a clear indication that Phori has no intentions to change the old rules.
The farmers also say the amendments contradict the recommendations of the parliament’s ad hoc committee on the wool and mohair industry.
The committee recommended that the 2018 regulations be repealed after finding that they were hurting farmers instead of improving their lot as Phori had vehemently insisted when he pushed amid hostile protests from angry farmers.

On Monday, the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA), which represent a majority of the more than 40 000 farmers, wrote to the committee to complain about the new regulations.
The association is particularly concerned that Phori has not changed the clause 6 of the regulations which says a farmer “shall not export wool and mohair unless is prepared, brokered, and traded and auctioned in Lesotho”.

Instead the new regulations repeat that clause word for word.
This is the same clause that has been the source of the fight between the government and the farmers.
“We cannot auction wool in particular, in the country as this process requires brokering under the guidance of an accredited institution not available in the country but the Wool Testing Bureau of South Africa based in Port Elizabeth,” the association says in the letter to the committee’s chairman Kimetso Mathaba.

“Buyers are not prepared to buy contents of bales without proper certification. For this to happen bales have to be transported to Port Elizabeth.”
The testing of the wool goes to the core of the conflict. According to international standards wool and mohair should be tested and certified before being auctioned.
The results of the tests determine the price of the fibre because it assures the buyers that they are getting the right product for their markets and mills.
Without the tests the farmers don’t know if they are being ripped off by the buyers. The buyers too don’t know if they are not paying the right price for the right product.
Lesotho does not have an accredited testing centre.

The Wool Testing Bureau of South Africa can only issue a testing certificate if it is involved in the collection of samples for its lab. The testing bureau is however only prepared to collect those samples if the fibre is in Port Elizabeth, not Lesotho. Their argument is that it is uneconomical for them to travel all the way to Lesotho to test 40 000 bales. They test hundreds of thousands of bales at the laboratory in Port Elizabeth.
The farmers say without testing certificates their fibre will only be bought on the black market where the prices are significantly lower than on the auctions.
This has been their major gripe with Stone Shi who government granted a monopoly to sell Lesotho’s wool on the international market.

Shi did not have testing certificates and could not take the fibre to the auctions, so he approached buyers from China who bought the fibre in private transactions.
Until now farmers don’t know who bought their wool and at what prices.
Shi has failed to give details of the tests he claims were conducted in New Zealand.
He is also yet to reveal his buyers in China.

The farmers say the same clause forces them to sell their wool in Lesotho when the ad hoc committee recommended that regulations “should be repealed with immediate effect in other to allow Basotho farmers to sell their product at the institutions or places of their choice”.
The farmers are also worried that the new regulations come with additional conditions that make it difficult for farmers to trade their fibre.
For instance, the new regulations say individual farmers shall apply for an export permit before their fibre is brokered, auctioned and traded in Lesotho.
The association sees this as an attempt to saddle the farmers with more paperwork.

They say it is not feasible for each of the more than 40 000 farmers to apply for a permit. Some of the farmers produce a few kilograms and have always relied on the association to consolidate their whole to reduce marketing, administration and transport costs. “Over the years we have demonstrated that it pays to market as an association and the resultant construction of woolshed and marketing as a body has proven us right,” the association says.

Phori’s new regulations also say permit applications from those who want to export as a group should include bale transport forms, consent forms and identity documents of all farmers.  This, the association says, will “cause delay and bureaucracy to move the bales out of the country”.

“The LNWMGA has the expertise to carry (out) this process as they have done before”.
The association says while waiting for the new regulations to be approved they are running out of space to keep their wool and mohair because bales have been piling up in the shearing sheds.
It says unless they start exporting the fibre farmers will not get paid by Christmas to feed their families, send children to school, deal with the impending food shortages and revive the collapsed rural economy.

Staff Reporter

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RFP douses fires

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MASERU – THE Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) was thrown into a fire-fighting mode this week after disgruntled party members protested over the party’s “undemocratic practices” in picking election candidates.

The members who won primary elections to stand for the party in the October 7 general elections were however blocked by the party’s leadership, torching protests by the grassroots supporters.

The group says it now wants party leader, Sam Matekane, to explain the criteria used to pick election candidates.

In defending the process, the RFP has argued that it picked the candidates on the basis of meritocracy insisting these were the best qualified candidates for the constituencies, an argument the group says lacks transparency.

Shortly after the party’s secretary general, Nthati Moorosi, announced the list of the chosen ones last week, scores of RFP members flocked the party offices demanding answers why their elected candidates were left out.

On Tuesday morning, the RFP went all out to reassure the disgruntled members that they were still valued members of the party. thepost understands that the party held a counselling session with the group.

However, a few hours later the group held a press conference in Maseru where they said even though they still supported the party all they wanted was transparency.

The disgruntled members are ’Mampho Seutloali from Stadium Area, Monohi Ralentsoe from Makhaleng, Chopho Lekhoabane from Khafung, Morakane Monate from Hlotse, Kobeli Rethabile Letlailane from Lithoteng, Thabo Moloi from Machache, Mahali Phamotse from Matlakeng and ‘Mamako Mohale-Lerata from Matelile.

The group said Matekane should explain the criteria the party used to pick candidates. Earlier the party had said the candidates would be selected based on their educational backgrounds, business successes or other social achievements in their communities.

Most of all these people Matekane left out have solid academic credentials and are successful in other sectors of society. Letlailane, reading their joint statement at the press conference, said they are demanding the document drafted by their leader while shortlisting the candidates.

“We believe that these documents are the only ones that can end the outcry that is coming from members who elected us in the constituencies,” Letlailane said.

“Members are worried that the results do not have transparency. This has caused loss of members in some constituencies,” he said, adding that some had already started re-joining parties they had defected from.

He said they wanted Matekane to give them answers so that they could go back and convince members that all is still well in the party. He said the documents would allay the fears of the people in the party.

“We aim to help our party to stop losing members on account of this,” he said.

Letlailana got 28 votes but Matekane picked Siera Letsoela who got only 12 votes. Phamotse received a stunning 96 votes but the party picked a relatively unknown Kenny Ntoane who only got 10 votes.

Letlailane said the RFP should be a beacon of transparency because many people had left their parties to join it because they were not transparent.

“The people are asking the RFP to live by what it preaches.”

He stated that most of the candidates who won primary elections but were not chosen do not want to defect together with the people in the constituencies who have started defecting.

“We aim to work hard to build this party, to get things right so that people do not leave,” he said.

He said their other aim is to prove to the nation and the people that the results were transparent. Dr Phamotse said by asking for the criteria “the angry people will understand and stop defecting”.

“We are helping by asking for accountability as there are some constituencies that have also launched similar complaints,” she said.

She said there are 30 aggrieved candidates who won primaries but were not picked to stand in their constituencies.

“They are not happy and we do not want them to leave,” she said.

Dr Phamotse said what makes matters worse is that members do not have the party constitution and they do not know if they have any legal basis to complain. The people, she said, base their decisions on democracy as they know it.

“We are representing others who are also not happy, especially those who won the primary elections.”

The Stadium Area primary election winner, ’Mampho Seutloali, said the candidates have huge supporters behind them.

“They are expecting to know what will be done as they voted for people and the party chose otherwise,” Seutloali said.

She stated that they had been negotiating with members not to defect.

“We are telling our people that the RFP is still powerful,” she said.

Matelile’s Mohale-Lerata said they signed a document to be members, therefore, they have a right to speak on matters affecting the RFP.

“But the constitution has not yet reached our constituencies,” Mohale-Lerata said.

A day earlier, Qacha’s Nek constituency members stormed the party premises demanding answers over the party’s undemocratic selection of candidates.

The members who had traveled from Qacha’s Nek to seek answers were not allowed to enter the office until around 4pm when a security guard finally let four of them in.

One of their representatives, Kokolia Mosothoane, told thepost that the leader chose ’Maatang Chaka who lost the primary elections.

“We demand to know how our leader picked this nobody, who stays in Maseru and knows nothing about us,” Mosothoane said.

“We will not tolerate this,” he said.

The members left the offices without answers.

On Sunday, the party co-founder Tlohang Sekhamane defended the party’s stance at a rally in Qeme constituency. Sekhamane said change is a beautiful thing as it goes along with developments.

“Change is not delicious on some people’s palates. We must embrace change,” Sekhamane said.

Sekhamane said Matekane has pointed out who should represent which constituency and “people lash at him for that”.

“That is why Lesotho is a poor country because we do not want to do the right things,” he said.

He said Matekane is doing what he knows by changing the ways things have been done in the country in the past.

He stated that Matekane wants to work with people he trusts the most.

“We thank you for allowing him to do so,” he said.

He said members “should change their old ways”.

“Stop believing that a parliament is an employment place where people go to eat with their families.”

He urged the members not to leave when unhappy because their party is doing this for their sake and the sake of the entire country.

“Matekane should be allowed to show and lead the way, he wants new things for your sake.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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Why Thabane case flopped

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MASERU – THE murder case against former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, ‘Maesaiah, collapsed this week because it hinges on the testimonies of four key witnesses the prosecution could not find. thepost can reveal that those witnesses have been playing ‘hide and seek’ with the prosecution for more than two years.

The police and the prosecution have so far failed to track down those witnesses, according to sources close to the case.

The four, who are Basotho based in South Africa, are said to be reluctant to give statements to the prosecution.

“They are not clearly saying that they don’t want to testify but they are always giving excuses,” said a source involved in the investigation.

thepost understands that attempts by the police to meet some of the suspects in South Africa last week failed.

“I am told one of them said he was rushing to Lesotho for an emergency. When the police came back to Lesotho, the witness said he was already back in South Africa.”

The source said two of the witnesses are famo music gang members that have information on the people who carried out the hit on Lipolelo Thabane.

The other two know how the murder was planned. Sources told thepost that for the past three weeks the police and the prosecution have been debating on how to proceed with the case against Thabane and his wife.

“We have some good information from the other 35 witnesses but the evidence from those four is crucial to this case.”

The source said the prosecution and the police have been racing against time to get the witnesses before the Thabanes’ legal team applies for the case to be dismissed due to lack of prosecution.

“They don’t know when those witnesses will be available. It’s not like those witnesses can be simply subpoenaed to give their statements,” the source said.

“The prosecution knew that the defence was now planning to apply for acquittal on the basis that the cases had been delayed for too long and the case against ‘Maesaiah is not proceeding.”

“If the prosecution had charged Thabane it meant he had to enter a plea and the case would have to proceed. But the trouble was that the prosecution is still struggling to get the four key witnesses.”

He said the withdrawal was the prosecution’s only option.

“It’s a strategic retreat rather than surrender. The charges have not been dropped so they can still be reinstated when the witnesses are available.”

There are however fears within the prosecution and the police that those witnesses might no longer be willing to testify and could disappear off the radar.

The police, another source said, are worried that those witnesses might be intimidated or induced to refuse to cooperate with the prosecution.

Two of ‘Maesaiah’s co-accused have died.

Staff Reporter

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Molibeli in new bid to hold on to post

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MASERU – COMMISSIONER of Police Holomo Molibeli says Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro no longer has the power nor mandate to advise the King to retire him. This is contained in a new application he filed in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.

In the application, Commissioner Molibeli says the Prime Minister cannot advise the King to fire him after parliament was dissolved two weeks ago.

He argues that following the dissolution of parliament, Majoro has become a caretaker Prime Minister without powers to make any major decisions in the interim.

He said section 83 (7) of the Constitution of Lesotho says a Caretaker Prime Minister “is limited to maintaining the status quo existing before the dissolution” of the 10th Parliament.

Commissioner Molibeli pleaded with the court to order that Majoro’s advice to King Letsie III to retire him from the office “during the caretaker period be considered unconstitutional, null and void for being contrary to section 83(7) of the Constitution”.

He added that the court should “interdict and restrain the King from acting on any advice of the Prime Minister or having the effect of advising His Majesty to require” him to retire.

In his founding affidavit, Commissioner Molibeli said that when the 10th Parliament was dissolved on July 13, the government assumed the caretaker role and with effect from July 14, “the Prime Minister became a caretaker Prime Minister presiding over the caretaker government”.

“The Prime Minister during the caretaker period is constitutionally prohibited from, among others, removing or effecting changes to key positions as the heads of securities, the judiciary, other law enforcement agencies such as Lesotho Revenue Authority and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

“As the Commissioner of Police, I am the head of and superintend the LMPS and its operations in Lesotho,” he said.

He said the 9th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits significant changes to key positions in the government “was inspired not only by the need to express the constitutional convention to that effect but also to specifically deal with the specific incidents influenced by collation politics since 2012”.

He said these are “matters of common knowledge and which the court is entitled to take judicial notice of”.

He said during the reforms process, the constituent popular sovereignty of the people of Lesotho was expressed in the Plenary II Report.

“There should be no appointments or removals to the heads of securities (LMPS, LDF and NSS) including the Commissioner of Police in the interim,” he said.

He emphasised that as the occupier of the office of the Commissioner since 2017, he is entitled to exercise and perform the functions of that office until otherwise removed by both the constitution and the law authorities.

“I have a right to prevent illegal and unconstitutional means of removing me from that office, and therefore to approach the court for purpose,” he said.

He said his dignity, reputation and self-worth are also derived from the performance of the functions of the office of the Commissioner of Police which he is currently holding.

“I have a right to prevent my unconstitutional and illegal removal from office,” he said.

He said the unconstitutional and illegal removal from office will cause irreparable harm not only to the integrity of the constitution, maintenance of the rule of law but will effectuate constitutional injustice to him and trample upon and render illusory and worthless his non-material rights.

’Malimpho Majoro

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