LENAFU reins-in vocal farmers


Troubled by possible threat to union’s reputation, independence


MASERU – Concerned about its reputation, independence and steadfast on its mandate, the Lesotho National Farmers Union (LENAFU) has dissuaded its membership from pronouncing public utterances likely to created discord. This is in light of heightened political debate as the country heads for the October 7 polls.

The union has reminded all farmer associations of their responsibility to strive for, nurture and respect unity among members, while also defending its mandate and reputation. The stern warning follows the union’s gathering with political party leaders themed “Bring agriculture and politics together”, which led to LENAFU sending this message to its membership to remain cautious.

Speaking to Public Eye this week, LENAFU national co-ordinator, Khotso Lepheana, noted that often an election period overwhelms people and many find themselves being used by politicians if found out to be vocal on national issues – with the ability to talk and convince people to a particular point of view.

“LENAFU has clear structures of communication and it has a number of independent associations affiliated with it. We therefore are aware that some of them hold prominent positions in their associations, so we felt a need to warn them to ensure that they separate their individual political affiliations with their associations and the union,” Lepheana noted.

He continued to highlight that LENAFU had to introspect and address all farmers to be avoid being used by politicians, considering that the country is going towards general elections. He said with this message, LENAFU stands firm to curb political separations within the union and any other forms of separation be it church affiliations or any other sectors of life one may freely subscribe to.

Reacting to this call by the famers’ union, Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and the Revolution For Prosperity (RFP) spokespersons, Liteboho Kompi, and Mokhethi Shelile respectively, applauded LENAFU for the statement and noted that although people have the freedom to express their political affiliations individually, LENAFU as an association has to remain neutral and not affiliate with any political party as the union represents many people with different views.

Both the MEC and the RFP have each stipulated in their manifestos how they will enhance farming in the country if they become government.

The Lesotho Potatoes Association (LPA) chairperson of the supervisory committee, Chaka Ntsane, similarly applauded LENAFU for the statement and noted that as farmers they have to remain focused. Ntsane added that when farmers are focused, they will be able to peacefully continue with farming beyond elections as life goes on.

Independent farmers from Ngope-Tšoeu Ha ngaka, Tufase Molibeli and Michael Tšoene told this paper that they appreciate that LENAFU has warned farmers to withdraw from publicly being active in politics and uttering words that could create separation among farmers.

Molibeli said as a young farmer, he advises his fellow farmers to stay focused and continue with their farming mission to continue production.

A September 5 LENAFU letter to the union’s members further warns that while an elections and campaign period is a welcome time during which all are excited by the opportunity to exercise their right to vote for a government of their choice, it is also a time that leaves the union prone to divisions and wrangling.

“This is a time that can also be dangerous to us as an amalgamation of the country’s farmer groups if we do not tread carefully on issues that have potential to dent our reputation and independence as LENAFU on national agricultural development,” says Lepheana in the letter.

LENAFU says they are cognisant of numerous personal orientations of the members on many social issues, including varied personal political leanings, but reminds the farmers that they remain united for the growth and success of each in their own agricultural space. “Let us not allow our individual preferences outside this farmers’ union to create disharmony among us,” the letter continues to read.

And we can only safeguard this harmony by defending LENAFU at all times, especially from those issues that have potential to bear discrimination, the mockery of others based on leanings outside this union – a scenario bound to cause tension and for other members to feel disrespected and belittled, the letter adds.

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