Vendors peeved by politicians’ promises

Issue ultimatum to finance minister

LEMOHANG TŠEHLA

MASERU – A group of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Association Lesotho (MSMEAL) together with district committees of Thibella Street Vendors Association and Mohahlaula have expressed frustration at politicians’ response to their plight. The vendors’ associations briefed the press yesterday on their assessment of commitments made by political groupings invited to outline their campaign promises to the sector at several successive gatherings held at the Pitso Ground in Maseru.

The vendors charge that they have tabled their grievances to the political leaders but none has made an effort to help them intervene or protect them from foreign-owned businesses, who seem to be taking over their businesses on the streets. They are also disillusioned that they have not, to date, received their Covid-19 relief allowances promised by government during past hard lockdown restrictions. It is said that among the 6 334 street vendors in Maseru, only 2 232 street vendors have received just M500 of their Covid-19 relief fund with outstanding amounts of M1 000. The founder of MSME, Motlere Thobi, said they will not rest until justice is served.

This, he said, as he stipulated that they will now sign a petition to the Minister of Finance, Thabo Sofonea, inquiring about the outstanding Covid-19 stipends that they were promised. Thobi breathed fire as he said they have interacted with about nine political leaders in the country but none of them helped excluding the All Basotho Convention Leader, Nkaku Kabi, who at least assured them that there is an amount of money that was said to be given to the street vendors as their Covid-19 relief fund.

He further said that they are giving the finance minister just 48 hours to respond to their letter or petition or they will take an action. “We want to be helped against the foreigners who are ruining the economy of the country”, he said. Thobi also said they no longer want to be addressed as street vendors because they want to grow economically. Speaking at the briefing, ’Maremi ’Mabathoana a vendor at Thibella Zone Vendors association, said none of the political leaders in Lesotho managed to help them as they are still competing with well-resourced foreign businesses in every corner of Maseru.

She further said foreigners are now selling their small products such as motoho and small packages of sugar at lower prices compared to theirs. Therefore, she said this has made their businesses to run huge losses. Again, she said the government of Lesotho is not fair to them as the street vendors because they are often chased away when selling in town. Moreover, ’Mabathoana said they do not have enough space to trade their products since most of the selling spaces are occupied by well-established foreign businesses.

In support, she said they have complained about the foreigners taking over their businesses endless times but the government of Lesotho has turned a blind eye on the matter. ’Mabathoana pleaded with the government of Lesotho to improve their work spaces as she said that they are trading in very unsanitary areas. In addition, Mohlalanyane Motsieloa, also a member of MSME association from Botha-Bothe said, according to the law of Lesotho, foreigners are strictly prohibited to run retail businesses in the country.

According to the Business Licensing and Registration Regulations legal notice of 2020, 34 (1) to (2) “for the purpose of the promotion and development of local entrepreneurship and micro, small and medium enterprises, the business activities  set out in Schedule 16 shall be reserved exclusively for citizens of Lesotho, excluding a naturalised and registered citizen of Lesotho. Moreover, it further reads as follows “A license issued to a naturalised or registered citizen of Lesotho, or an enterprise of which the proprietor, shareholder, partner or director is not citizen of Lesotho shall remain in force until the expiry of the license.” He also said that in Botha-Bothe only 72 street vendors have received their M500, with an outstanding amount of M1 000.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro imposed nationwide lockdown on the January 14, 2021, pertaining the huge increase in Covid-19 infections and fatalities in the country, in the aftermath of Christmas holidays, and lockdown restrictions were eased on the February 3, 2021. In the middle of this nationwide lockdown street vendors were forced to shut down their businesses as they were promised they would receive Covid-19 relief funds for the period of three months.

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