Police stop vendors’ petition to Matekane


. . . small businesses want ban on foreigners from 47 ventures effected


MASERU – The police intervened on Wednesday this week to stop the march of street vendors and small business owners who were planning to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister’s office. The letter was about a request to ban foreigners from participating in businesses that are exclusively reserved for indigenous Basotho, such as selling small separate items. Street vendors and small business owners express dissatisfaction with their businesses’ poor performance, often resulting in unsold stock and financial losses, as they struggle to compete with larger foreign businesses offering same products at lower prices.

More than 10 associations of vendors and small businesses organised this march. Speaking to this publication Thibella Vendors Association, representative, Maremi Mabathoana said, since 2020 they have been urging the government, specifically the Ministry of Trade, to enforce laws that prevent foreigners from engaging in small businesses exclusively reserved for Basotho people, such as selling fat cakes, repackaged snacks, and salon services.

Despite the existence of laws prohibiting this practice, Mabathoana said the government has chosen to ignore the issue. “So we decided to march to deliver the letter to the Prime Minister’s office, However, we were unexpectedly informed by the police that the march had been canceled, despite having a  permit,” she said, explaining further  that a lawyer from one of the associations intervened and helped them present their grievances to the court.

“The court then advised them to bring the matter to the attention of the minister of police, with the understanding that the court would intervene after three days,” she said. In 2020, the Ministry of Trade and Industry introduced new regulations aimed at protecting specific businesses exclusively for indigenous Basotho. The Business Licensing and Registration Regulations, 2020, presented to parliament, outlined 47 business activities reserved solely for indigenous Basotho.

However, it also stated that foreigners are allowed to participate in these 47 activities but only as minority shareholders holding 49 percent or less. These regulations put into effect the Business Licensing and Registration Act of 2019. According to the Act, foreigners investing in businesses outside the 47 sectors must demonstrate a minimum investment of M2 million to renew their trader’s licenses. The regulations were implemented to rectify what was deemed as an initial oversight.

While foreign investment is encouraged, the focus should be on larger corporations that indigenous Basotho may not have the capacity to venture into. Indigenous Basotho are defined as individuals with at least three generations of ancestry in Lesotho.

The then Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Maile Masoebe, revealed that most foreign business operators do not qualify for the type of foreign investment that Lesotho requires. Instead, most are just competing with local small enterprises in the small business sector so the regulations were implemented to avoid disrupting economic activities.

Among the 47 activities targeted for preservation for indigenous Basotho  includes transport, cleaning, repairing and retail motors sales, growing and selling fruits and vegetables, pharmaceutical wholesaling and retailing, real estate, retail of animal feeds, supply of fuel , retail of hardware and raising horses, sheep and goats, piggery and poultry.

The stoppage of the march happens just after the streets of Maseru descended into chaos last week as street vendors operating along Moshoeshoe Road were evicted without being given alternative places to set up their businesses. These vendors were instructed by the Maseru City Council (MCC) to leave the area for road maintenance and widening before Easter. Despite the notice, many vendors remained on the streets until the Road Directorate dismantled their shacks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *