Minister probes Maseru Dawning again

Minister probes Maseru Dawning again

MASERU-THE government has launched another investigation on Maseru Dawning over its failure to pay wool and mohair farmers, thepost heard this week.

The investigation comes a year after Parliament recommended the move.
Small Businesses Development Minister Keketso Sello told parliament on Tuesday that they will also establish an authority that will regulate the sale of wool and mohair in Lesotho.

“We want an investigation on what really happened with the payments for some famers,” Sello said.
An initial investigation last year found that about 250 000 were directly and indirectly employed in the wool and mohair industry in Lesotho.

It found out that farmers were not consulted when the government issued the controversial Wool and Mohair Regulations 2018 that gave Maseru Dawning a monopoly to export the product.
The investigation also found out that there was no feasibility study that had been undertaken to operationalise the regulations.

It was also found that there were inconsistencies and delays in paying farmers at the Wool Centre which was not the case when the farmers were selling to BKB Limited and CMW Limited.

The delays had triggered anger, abject poverty and anxiety among farmers, the investigation found.
Sello said the government was setting up the authority after meeting farmers countrywide to hear their opinions.

“Our ministry called the owner of Maseru Dawning and their bank for talks but no progress was made therefore we decided to suspend their licence,” Sello said.
Maseru Dawning’s licence was suspended last month.

Sello said they advised farmers to establish their own committees at the shearing sheds so that they can clearly say where they want to sell their wool and mohair.
The chairman of the interim committee that probed the wool issues, Kimetso Mathaba, said Maseru Dawning was supposed to have paid farmers within 30 days from when they brought their findings in parliament.

Mathaba said if Maseru Dawning fails to pay then the government should take over the tab and pay the farmers.
He recalled that Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, when he was still finance minister, said he had set aside M10 million to help bail out the farmers.
“This issue is painful to the wool and mohair farmers as they rely on their trade to support their families,” Mathaba said.

“We found out that some students dropped out of school due to that crisis,” he said.
“The issues of wool and mohair should be solved to finality to avoid incidents such as trucks blocking the border gate.”

He was referring to last week’s incident in which farmers blocked the Maseru border gate in protest.
Mathaba said the politicisation of the wool and mohair issues must now come to an end.

The Alliance of Democrats (AD) MP, ’Manthabiseng Phoheli, said the interim committee has already played its part.
He said government officials forget where they come from.
“We do not love our country at all,” Phohleli said.
She argued that suspending the Maseru Dawning licence might not help as they will still not pay the farmers.

The MP for Koro-Koro, Motebang Koma, said the issue of wool and mohair “has now turned into a crisis”.
Koma said MPs should be aware that the wool and mohair business helps a lot of people including herdboys who also have families they support.
He complained that the move by Sello to investigate Maseru Dawning again is a waste of time.

“Now we are doing a repeat of what was done,” Koma said.
He said the ad hoc committee must just pass their findings to the government for implementation.

Nkheli Liphoto

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