Thabane doing it for Shi: Moshoeshoe

Wool and mohair farmer Khotsang Moshoeshoe addresses the crowd during a protest against regulations forcing farmers to sell their wool and mohair to a Chinese broker, outside the Parliament building in Maseru, Lesotho, on June 28, 2019. - Wool and mohair are key exports for farmers in Lesotho, but the government of the small southern Africa nation signed a monopoly deal last year with a Chinese broker who is accused of failing to pay for goods. About 30,000 farmers in Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, rely on wool and mohair exports. (Photo by Samson MOTIKOE / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAMSON MOTIKOE/AFP/Getty Images)

. . . charges China does not need mohair

BONGIWE ZIHLANGU

MASERU – Mokhotlong wool and mohair producer, Khotsang Moshoeshoe, who is also spokesperson of the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LWMGA), is adamant that the Wool and Mohair Regulations of 2018 should be scrapped as they have destroyed the industry and plunged farmers into abject poverty.

Mosheoshoe also berated Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government for supporting Chinese businessman and CEO of Maseru Downing, Stone Shi by giving him monopoly over the wool and mohair industry regardless of the chaos this has created in terms of delayed and mostly measly payments that have, among others, seen most farmers selling their livestock to make a living.

In a wide-ranging interview with Public Eye this week, Moshoeshoe also criticises the government’s decision to suspend the contentious wool and mohair regulations for three months, alleging Lesotho’s premier is being disingenuous in that “he is opening up the borders in order to ease pressure on Shi”.

“China is not a consumer of mohair. Shi only sells wool to China. This means the borders are only open now because it is the mohair sheering season. The PM wants us to get rid of the mohair for Shi because he doesn’t have a market for it,” Moshoeshoe alleges.

Below are excerpts from the interview with PUBLIC EYE:

PUBLIC EYE: What is your take on the two motions tabled in parliament by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Democratic Congress (DC); one of which sought investigations into the wool and mohair regulations saga, leading to the formation of the ongoing ad-hoc committee; while the other proposed that the regulations be scrapped altogether?

KHOTSANG MOSHOESHOE: Of the two motions, the one that could have helped us in the long run was that of the DC which proposed that the regulations be scrapped altogether.

But when we realised that parliament had opted for the other motion, we then resolved that it would be helpful if we organised last week’s protest march to parliament requesting the repeal of the regulations in question.

P.E: Last week the PM announced the suspension of the regulations for three months pending finalisation of some issues and tying up of some loose ends. What is your take?

K.M: My take is that Thabane was not doing it for us but for Stone Shi. China to which Shi sells our wool doesn’t consume mohair but needs wool only. And, it so happens that this is the mohair sheering season.

The PM wants us to clear all the mohair so that when we start sheering wool, Stone Shi wouldn’t be stuck with mohair that he wouldn’t know what to do with. The PM, like I’ve said before, was being disingenuous.

P.E: There have been concerns that politicians hijacked the wool and mohair farmers protest march against the regulations on Friday last week. We have also seen the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) political party led by local businessman Teboho Mojapela feeding stranded farmers in Mokhotlong as they queued for days at one of the banks awaiting payment. That also drew a lot of criticism as some quarters berated SR for exploiting that opportunity to campaign. What do you have to say to that?

K.M:  First and foremost, let me inform the ignorant ones that I, in my capacity as the LWMGA spokesperson, was assigned to invite all political parties, NGOs, other organisations and Basotho of goodwill to the march because the wool and mohair crisis had ceased to be about farmers alone.

In the past when we had our protests, we did not invite such. But in this instance we felt compelled to because for the first time Basotho did not get paid their monies so it had now become a national issue.

As for SR, the party went all out to feed stranded farmers because it had been invited by one Pastor Ntsimane Mosoang of the Harvester Church. But, instead of looking at the bigger picture, Basotho chose to attack Mojapela.

We are not ashamed to say that we invited politicians because this issue has become a crisis. People from all walks of life have a stake in this fight. It is a chain and when it breaks, many lives are affected.

P.E: In a previous interview with Public Eye, you noted that should the enforcement of the regulations continue, Basotho would be plunged into abject poverty which would destroy lives. Please paint a picture of the status quo.

K.M: These regulations have brought about so much poverty among farmers and Basotho in general who benefit from the proceeds generated from the sales of the commodities. Our income has declined dramatically, by a whopping 65 percent. In terms of production we are down by more than 70 percent.

As we speak, my native Thabang Shearing Centre in Mokhotlong, under normal circumstances produces more than 30 bales of mohair, has now produced just eight. This is due to farmers resorting to selling their livestock in order to earn a living.

For instance, a person who used to own about 50 sheep not so long ago is now left with between 10 or 15. Buyers also take advantage and pay less because they know that we are desperate hence they sell livestock at giveaway prices. We have lost a great deal.

P.E: What would be a lasting solution to the predicament?

K.M: We have experienced some very serious problems. It will only take a clear and decisive programme of action for us to recover. For instance, we need assurance that the regulations will be scrapped in order for organisations such as BKB to finance the restocking programme. Otherwise we will be stuck and this industry might never be what it once was.     

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