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Mohair farmers face ‘financial Armageddon’



PORT ELIZABETH – It’s the peak season for mohair sales but there is despair for Basotho farmers.
BKB’s 7 000 square meters warehouse in Port Elizabeth which is usually packed with Lesotho’s mohair at this time is empty.
This is because Basotho mohair farmers are not able to export their mohair due to the New Agricultural Marketing Regulations of 2018.
In good times Lesotho would deliver 700 of the 2 500 tonnes of mohair BKB received from farmers.
And time is running out for Basotho farmers to sell their mohair.

While Lesotho’s farmers are unable to export the Mohair South Africa Market report for the auction on Tuesday in Port Elizabeth shows a 9.6 percent increase in the average price of mohair, with the highest price at M539 per kilogramme. The third sale of the 2018 winter season will be on 25 September 2018. Lesotho’s mohair is sold at five of the 16 main auctions. The best prices are in August and September because that is when the main buyers come to the auctions. From October the prices are depressed because only small buyers are at the auctions.

Buyers told thepost that if Basotho farmers don’t bring their mohair on September 25 they will look for alternatives and Lesotho would have lost its niche market. “Mohair has been mainly affected. It had developed a special niche of buyers but with the prevailing situation it is likely not to come to the market,” said Anthony Kirsten, Chairman of the South African Wool and Mohair Buyers Association (SAWAMBA).

Kirsten says spinners and weavers who buy Lesotho’s mohair will have no choice but to look for substitutes.
“The longer it takes for this issue to be resolved the more the wool or mohair from Lesotho becomes irrelevant.”
Etienne Bezuidenhout, manager of Mohair Marketing Lesotho Account BKB, said “it will be suicidal for Lesotho to fail to avail its mohair to the market by the end of this month”.
“Buyers need to meet demands of their clients on time. If the product they want is not available they will find a substitute and stick with it,” Bezuidenhout said. “They need consistency and failing to deliver just this once will bring the mohair industry in Lesotho on its knees.”

He adds that once buyers ditch a product it is game over, they are very unlikely to go back regardless of how good the product is.
“In the past almost 50 years this has never happened. It would be sad to let a relationship built over so many years with buyers collapse.”
According to Clarens Eriskin of Segara Masurel, another wool and mohair buyer, Lesotho only has two options: “It is either you send your mohair to South Africa to be auctioned in a competitive environment which results in farmers getting best prices or you sell to Stone which will not fetch good prices for the farmers”.

Stone Shi is the Chinese-Australian investor whose deal with the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) has gone sour.
He has since been evicted from Thaba-Bosiu Wool and Mohair Centre which he built under a joint venture with the LNWMGA.
Stone’s business model was based on the idea that buyers would come to Lesotho to buy the wool and mohair from Lesotho.
The idea was that such an arrangement would cut out the middlemen.

But Eriskin said he thinks Stone’s biggest market will be the informal market in China.
He said Stone’s strategy is to use the tender system that makes farmers mere bystanders in the sale of their wool and mohair.
Shi is said to have the backing of some ministers who tinkered with regulations to shore up his fledgling business.
The government has introduced stiff penalties for people who sell or buy wool and mohair without a licence. It has also banned the export of wool and mohair without licence. All these, critics say, are meant to assist Shi’s business.

He further indicates that Stone Shi had proposed the same model for South Africa but it was rejected.
“Basically his proposal is to create a monopoly,” Eriskin says.

Peter Carey of Lempriere, a wool and mohair buyer, said that selling the mohair to Stone will mean that the mohair will be sold through tenders or in the informal sector in China and not through auctions which are considered fair, efficient and transparent ways that ensure buyers get the best value for their product. “China tried to implement the auction system about ten years ago but it collapsed within three months,” Carey said.

Buyers also fret that proposed direct auctioning of wool and mohair from Lesotho will increase their costs and result in lower prices for the farmers.
“We will not come, the costs will be astronomical for us as buyers and the quantities are not enough,” said Andrew Papie of Modiano, one of the biggest wool buyers in the world. He cautioned that it is important for Lesotho to remember that its wool and mohair is not sold in isolation. Buyers are looking at wool and mohair from both Lesotho and South Africa. He further said the duration of Lesotho mohair and wool season is not enough to keep any plant or factory operating.

It’s estimated that to have a facility like the one BKB is using for storage, sorting and displaying Lesotho will need at least M500 million.
Kirsten pointed out that he believes that setting up a factory is not the hardest part but it is keeping the factory running that is costly.
“One will need an intense working capital. We are talking about around M50 million a season. As it is, several factories shut down because the quantities were not enough to cover the running costs.”

He states that SAWAMBA wrote a letter in July to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane trying to explain the implications of the new regulations but they didn’t get a response. Wian Heath of the South African Wool Testing Bureau told thepost that it will cost millions for Lesotho to establish a testing wool or mohair testing centre. They warn against buying testing equipment off the shelf.

They say most of the equipment is bespoke and some of it comes from Australia.
It says that needs a high level of expertise and also needs in-house maintenance.

The bureau says testing is crucial as it gives buyers that they are getting the best product.
Selibe Mochoboroane, a farmer and politician in Lesotho, said Lesotho is not yet ready to set up such facility.
“Setting it up will not be in the interest of farmers or the country due to the costly upkeep of such facility.”

“It is not a facility that can be erected in a day, month or year therefore in the meantime it would be best to let farmers use their former channels,” Mochoboroane said. His sentiments were echoed by Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, the Principal Chief of Matsieng, who was also at the auction.
Chief Seeiso said his visit has revealed that it takes more than regulations to transform the sector.

He said he has seen that the sector is “not only capital intensive but also demands expertise”. He said without the expertise Lesotho would not be able to meet the international standards and the industry will collapse.

BKB, the South African company that has been buying Lesotho’s wool and mohair for over four decades has been at loggerheads with the government.
The government has accused the company of evading tax and opening bank accounts without proper documents.
BKB has said all those charges are trumped up and a ruse to hound it out of Lesotho so as to give an unfair advantage to competitors.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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