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We’re ready to govern

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MASERU – THE Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, says he will push for the government to acquire a 51 percent stake in all companies where it has shares if his party wins election next Friday.

Mochoboroane says that should not rattle investors who currently own as much as 70 percent in diamond mines with the government owning the remaining 30 percent.

He says such a structure will ensure Basotho benefit fully from their natural resources.

“How do you have a say as government over your natural resources with a shareholding of 30 percent? We just do not have control,” he says.

“When I get into power we will ensure that the government increases shareholding to 51 percent so that we are in control. We still need foreign investors but we need to be in control.”

It is strategy that has been tried elsewhere in Africa with devastating consequences as investors, unnerved by the radical rhetoric, quickly fled.

But Mochoboroane is adamant that such a radical economic policy will not trigger investor flight.

“It will not threaten investors. What we will have to do is to buy the shares to have one more share. They’ll still do the work but we have to be in control,” he says.

“A diamond is a non-renewable resource. Once extracted it is gone and will not be replaced.”

An MEC government, Mochoboroane says, will create a sovereign development fund to ensure that Basotho benefit fully from their natural resources.

“When we sell diamonds, a certain percentage has to go to the investment so that the next generation can benefit from the extraction of our diamonds.”

Funds generated from the sale of the diamonds will then be channeled towards infrastructure development “to ensure we leave a legacy for the next generation”.

“We have to have some means of ensuring that the generations to come also benefit from the same resources that we kept. They should not just see the dongas that came as a result of extracting diamonds.”

Mochoboroane is a strong admirer of the Botswana model; how the government has used its vast mineral wealth to educate and place thousands of Batswana into top universities around the world.

“Here in Lesotho we cannot take our students to study at Oxford University because we can’t afford that. But Batswana, with their investments in mining, are able to do that,” he says.

“We must therefore create a sovereign wealth fund so that the future generations can benefit from our resources. Such a fund will save us from borrowing from the IMF and World Bank. We will borrow from our resource.”

Mochoboroane also wants a shake-up of the government’s pension fund which he says is currently working for the benefit of South Africa.

“Look at how fast Sandton is growing. They get these resources from Lesotho and we are not able to tap into our own resource,” he says.

Sandton is the richest square mile in Africa with big businesses headquartered there.

For Mochoboroane the key to fixing what’s ailing Lesotho lies in adopting radical economic transformation programmes for the country.

He thinks he is, judged on past performance alone, the best candidate for the country’s biggest job, come October 7.

He says Basotho should vote for his MEC next Friday “because it preaches the gospel of service delivery”.

“It doesn’t just preach but it also delivers (on its campaign promises),” he says.

Mochoboroane is quick to point to what he says is a “solid track-record” of service delivery first when he was Deputy Minister of Local Government.

“This is the kind of politics I am sharing with the people. They know that was the basis of the formation of the MEC, it is nothing but service delivery,” he says.

“Wherever we are, whether we are in opposition, or in government, we deliver. I served as chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee.

There was never a time when the PAC performed the way it did. Look at the number of motions filed by the deputy leader of the MEC in parliament.”

He says all this is because of the ethos of the MEC – to deliver on their mandate to the people of Lesotho.

He says the MEC should be judged at the ballot box “on the basis of our past performance”.

If the MEC wins the elections next week, Mochoboroane says he wants Lesotho to go back to the ideals of the National Strategic Development Plan that was penned under former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Under the Maputo Declaration, Mochoboroane says, Lesotho pledged to channel ten percent of its national budget to agriculture.

That grand plan has never been implemented, leaving Lesotho to survive on handouts from international relief agencies.

Instead, what we have seen from successive governments is a starving of the agriculture sector leaving the country food-insecure.

“As we speak, there has never been a time when we go beyond 2.5 percent. We’ve been between two percent and 2.7 percent (being allocated to agriculture). We have not even got to five percent of our total budget yet agriculture is the backbone for the growth of the economy,” he says.

“There is just no way that we as a country can depend on another (to feed ourselves),” he says.

“If you are not able to produce your own products there is no way that you will be able to stimulate the growth of the economy.”

“The declaration Mosisili signed in 2009 in Maputo must be implemented.”

If the MEC wins the polls, Mochoboroane says apart from revamping agriculture, they will also channel their energies on fighting corruption which has resulted in massive leakages in tax mobilisation.

“When Basotho have elected me into power, I will work to (uproot) corruption to ensure that we collect as much revenue as possible.”

To boost Lesotho’s revenue, Mochoboroane says he wants the 1986 Water Treaty signed with South Africa reviewed significantly because the current deal is heavily skewed in Pretoria’s favour.

“That treaty was signed by the apartheid regime and the military regime which was not elected by the people. We are going to engage South Africa to review the treaty,” he says.

“The royalties we get from selling water are far low as compared to the benefits South Africa gets from our water. We will have to sit down with South Africa and convince them that we need to review that treaty.”

Judging by the attendance at his rallies and the aggressive recruitment of members behind the scenes, Mochoboroane says he expects his MEC to put up a stellar show at the polls this time around.

“You will be shocked when the results are announced,” he says.

Mochoboroane was in a bullish mood when thepost spoke to him at his party’s offices this week.

“I’m certain that we are going to do very well looking at how I performed in the previous elections and how we are doing now in terms of the campaign. I’m hopeful that we are going to do well.”

He says they have been on the ground campaigning since the last election in 2017, setting up structures for the MEC.

The results, he says, have been outstanding.

“But looking at the membership and the successes of our rallies, I am certain that at least I will be able to compete in 20 constituencies and participate in the rest of the constituencies.”

Mochoboroane won the Thabana-Morena constituency in the 2017 snap election, the only constituency his MEC won outright.

He hopes to retain that constituency whilst adding a few more.

“I am not quite sure how many seats I am going to win but I will be in a position to compete and when you compete there can only be two outcomes: either you win or you lose. But even if you lose, you lose with very good numbers.”

He says he has no qualms with the manner in which the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has run the election so far.

He however would have wanted voter education and advertising to have been done a little earlier to ensure Basotho access relevant voter education.

Mochoboroane is realistic enough to keep his ambitions in check. He says he acknowledges that no single political party is going to romp to victory and win the necessary 61 seats to form government on its own.

“We are in the era of coalition governments,” he says. “There is no way we can run away from coalition governments. We will have to live with coalition governments for the next 20 years or so.”

He says despite that reality, he still believes the MEC can lead the next coalition government. But even after forming a coalition government, political parties should not use that as an excuse to fail to deliver on their electoral promises.

“Nobody should give an excuse that they failed to deliver because they were in a coalition government. Coalition governments do not stop anyone from delivering quality services,” he says.

“With or without a coalition government we have to deliver.”

He says Basotho must vote for the MEC, a “party that believes in service delivery that has a vision of moving Lesotho from where it is now to a Lesotho that will be prosperous in the next five years”.

The MEC is a fiercely pro-Basotho political formation whose election manifesto promises “to kill corruption” whilst promising to “create jobs” for Basotho.

With an image of a hand watch, the MEC says “2022 should be the dawn of a new Lesotho that turns the tide on the downward trend of the past 10 years”.

“This is a moment of renewal. It is an opportunity to build democratic institutions and return our country to a path of transformation, growth and development,” the party says in its manifesto.

It says an MEC government will be anchored on five thematic areas:
• Fiercely fighting corruption and enforcement of the law
• Promoting private sector development
• Infrastructure development, economic recovery and growth
• Strengthening patriotism and social cohesion
• Improving social security services

Mochoboroane says while there was nothing fundamentally with Zhen Yu Shao, a Mosotho of Chinese descent, joining a political party of his choice, he just cannot understand why the man should be allowed to run for elections in Lesotho.

“That is an insult to Basotho,” he says bluntly.

Shao initially wanted to stand for elections under the MEC banner but was given short thrift by the party that felt he was a liability and would damage the reputation of a party that projects itself as fiercely pro-Basotho.

When the MEC rejected him, Shao packed his bags and formed his Basotho Pele party under which he is running for elections in the Ha-Tsolo constituency.

This week, a group of Basotho launched a legal challenge against Shao’s candidacy.

Mochoboroane says it would be a travesty of justice to Basotho to allow Shao to run in the elections.

“We are Africans living in Africa. We are Basotho living in Lesotho. Now can you think of a parliament run by a Chinese?”

“We have a problem of an economy that is not too strong, that depends on other countries such as China. Now think of a situation where we are now led by a Chinese national. I take that as an insult to Basotho.”

“Even the Basotho who are voting for the Chinese national, does that mean that even amongst themselves no one can stand for elections? Does that mean they have lost hope even in themselves? I take it as an insult to Basotho.”

He says when he first picked information that Shao had joined his party, he immediately dispatched a delegation led by the party’s secretary general “to find out what was happening”.

“We agreed that if it’s true (that Shao was a member) it had come to an end immediately. We cannot afford as a party to have a Chinese national who will stand the elections under the flag of the party.”

Abel Chapatarongo & Khotsofalang Koloi

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors

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MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue

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LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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