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Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU – MINISTER of Trade Joshua Setipa says it is important for donors to help manage perceptions about Lesotho if this country is to graduate from being least developed country.

Setipa said this during the launch of the 2016 Least Developed Countries (LDC) Report yesterday at the UN House.
“Perceptions also count. If you are viewed to be unstable and unsafe you will never make it out of the least developed countries,” Setipa said.
“It is our duty as a government to maintain political stability,” he said.
“We should let people exercise their democratic right and change governments in parliament and not with a barrel of a gun.”
He said Italy has had 54 governments in 52 years but is not viewed as unstable.
“Even in South Africa there is a motion of no confidence in parliament every week yet they are not perceived unstable but when our people exercise their democratic right we are seen as unstable.”

The minister said donor community should also take some responsibility “otherwise every dollar or every form of assistance they give to Lesotho will not bear the desired results”.
He said as long as Lesotho is still perceived as unstable “we will never graduate or attract the necessary investors”.
He further said there is a need to evaluate LDCs differently “as different countries have different landscapes and different needs”.
He stated that landlocked countries like Lesotho need a well-coordinated regional integration strategy for their economies to grow.
Motulu Molapo, Senior Economist at the Ministry of Development Planning said the LDCs adopted the Istanbul Program of Action (IPoA) in 2011 in Turkey.
“The overarching goal of the Programme of Action for the decade 2011-2020 is to overcome the structural challenges faced by the least developed countries in order to eradicate poverty, achieve internationally agreed development goals and enable graduation from the least developed country category,” Molapo said.
The challenges Molapo referred to include low per capita income, low level of human development, and economic and structural handicaps to growth that limit resilience to vulnerabilities.

“Following the adoption of the IPoA by the LDCs, Lesotho completed its five-year medium term strategy, the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 12/13 – 2016/17),” she said.
“This was an opportunity for the country to integrate the IPoA into the NSDP.”
Molapo said the NSDP served as a vehicle for implementation of the IPoA.
“NSDP strategic goals were developed in line with the eight IPoA priorities,” she said.
Molapo further said although the country has not been able to meet the set targets there has been progress towards that especially in the areas that are used on the criteria like GNI Per Capita, human asset index and economic vulnerability.

“The GNI per Capita stands at US$1 374 (about M18 755). This is above the graduation threshold of US$1 242 (about M16 953) but far below the graduation threshold income. The country’s GNI per capita is lower than the LDCs average of US$1 436 (about M19 604),” she said.
Molapo said the country has been working at driving sustainable economic growth through a private sector led employment creation.
She said this means facilitating private investments in the main employment creating productive sectors such as commercial agriculture, mining, manufacturing and services sectors such as tourism and construction.

She said the country’s Human Assets Index (HAI) is 62.9.
This is below the target but higher than the LDCs average of 51.5.
The human asset index reflects performance in the reduction of under-five mortality rate and percentage of population undernourished.
It also informs about the adult literacy rate and gross secondary school enrolment ratio.
Enrolment rates in secondary schools have been increasing over the years.
The total net enrolment rate has been increasing from 34.2 percent in 2010 to 37.3 percent in 2013.
Despite an upward trend in secondary school NER, the rate of increase remains low.

This low rate of increase is associated with unaffordable fees by most poor families as bursaries are only provided to Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC), Molapo said.
“There has been a decrease in under-five mortality rate from 117 recorded in 2009 to 85 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014,” she said.
Molapo said Under 5 mortality rate was reduced through improved access to emergency obstetric care service, among others.
Another factor is engagement of skilled health or birth attendants at all health centres, scaling up reproductive health education including promotion of family planning services and essential nutrition packages for pregnant and lactating mothers.“Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) is at 42.9 which is higher than the graduation threshold of 32 or below. This shows that the country is vulnerable to natural and other economic shocks,” Molapo said.

She showed that there are several challenges like limited financial resources, reporting challenges as well as the lack of functional monitoring and evaluation body, posing as obstacles in the way of achieving the desired IPoA targets.
Sam Rapapa, the MP for Mosalemane, said MPs and politicians should be helped to disseminate the information to people and encourage them to partake in order to enable Lesotho to graduate from being one the LDCs.


LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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