Meat traders threaten ministry


 ‘Adhere to empowerment of locals or face the law’


MASERU – The Ministry of Trade, Business, and Tourism must adhere to the full implementation of the Business Licensing and Regulations 2020 or face legal action, states the Meat Traders Association in a recent petition to the registrar of companies. The association accuses the registrar of selectively applying the law, particularly focusing on fees while neglecting other crucial aspects mandated by the regulations.

According to the association, the current enforcement primarily revolves around Schedule 15, which outlines fee structures for applicants and renewals, resulting in escalated fees. However, numerous key sections addressing license issuance, renewals, and preventing unfair business competition remain unattended. “Your office is alleged to focus solely on implementing Schedule 15 concerning fees, which has resulted in the extortion of money from our clients,” said the complaint.

Schedule 15 sets out the fees for a range of services required by those applying for business licenses, those renewing existing licenses, and other related services, leading to an overall increase in fees. The Ministry has been given a deadline until the end of this month to fully enforce the law or face legal action. The Meat Traders Association is prepared to file a mandamus application to compel the government to perform its duties fully and correct any misuse of authority.

In their letter, the association highlights the ministry’s oversight in key areas of the law, such as license issuance, renewals, and preventing unfair business competition — elements that are crucial for the protection and advancement of Basotho and the local business community.

“We have been instructed to demand comprehensive enforcement of the law to eliminate favouritism and discrimination between foreign and indigenous businesses, especially concerning unfair business competition where foreign entities are still operating in sectors reserved for locals,” wrote Advocate T.C. Motloli from the Meat Traders Association. The regulations allocate about 47 business sectors exclusively for indigenous Basotho. Foreigners can engage in these sectors, but only as minority shareholders, holding no more than 49 percent of the shares.

Key sectors reserved include international road freight transport logistics, motor dealerships, clearing agencies, warehousing activities, and retail sales of household fuels like bottled gas and coal. The fast food industry, hairdressing, beauty treatment, and repair services are also reserved.

Further included are the maintenance of motor vehicles and motorcycles, photocopying, document preparation, and other specialised office support tasks; electrical and plumbing services; as well as both the wholesale and retail sales of alcoholic beverages (regardless of consumption location) and meat products, including poultry.

Under the regulations, foreigners operating businesses outside these 47 reserved sectors must demonstrate an investment of at least M2 million in their ventures to renew their trading licenses.Their business plans must also highlight the strategic impact of their business on the Lesotho economy and detail how the business involves local citizens.

When these regulations were introduced, the then Chief Accounting Officer of the Ministry of Trade and Industry-Principal Secretary (PS), Maile Masoebe, emphasised that they were designed to correct previous oversights. He noted that while foreign investment is encouraged, it should be directed towards larger enterprises that are beyond the typical scope of indigenous Basotho entrepreneurs.

Recently, local business owners voiced their dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of progress in implementing the Business Licensing and Regulations 2020 at a forum organised by the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Association in Maseru. They criticised the government for its apathy towards enforcement and urged legislators present at the forum to push for full implementation. The forum aimed to enhance the participation of Basotho-owned businesses in all sectors of Lesotho’s economy, under the theme “Taking Back the Economy.”

So far the association does not have solid plans for opening of the abattoir. The government’s abattoir at Khubetsoana has also since shut down leaving the country without any. Teboho Matsepe of Meat Traders Association said the previous government had published a tender for the re-opening of Selakhapane but none of the applicants qualified forcing a readvertisment. It is not clear if an operator has been found.

He called on traders to work together towards an establishment of an abattoir because “we currently do not have even a single abattoir.” This has worsened cases of stock theft, unemployment and money getting lost to neighbouring South Africa at the expense of Lesotho.

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