Majoro’s promise to farmers up in smoke
MASERU – None of the Wool and Mohair farmers that government revealed would start receiving payments yesterday have received any payments, Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) has said.
The Minister of Finance Dr Moeketsi Majoro said on Wednesday when delivering the budget speech for the 2020/21 financial year that government has decided to shoulder the responsibility for the payment of about 1 000 farmers that wool and mohair broker, Maseru Dawning, failed to pay.
Payments were supposed to start yesterday.
Maseru Dawning is wool and mohair brokering company owned by Chinese national Stone Shi.
The Lesotho government last year introduced controversial new regulations prohibiting famers and brokers from exporting wool and mohair, a move that sparked multiple protests by the farmers.
The Chinese-owned Maseru Dawning was the only company licensed and enjoying monopoly in the industry that generates around R800 million in annual revenue.
Scores of farmers protested, however, that they had not received a cent from the company.
LNWMGA chairman, Mokoenihi Thinyane, confirmed in an interview with Public Eye late yesterday that none of the owed farmers have received any payment.
“The payment of farmers will begin tomorrow, Thursday. Government also decided to undertake a special study to understand the policy, technical, implementation and financial challenges that beset the localisation policy,” Majoro told parliament.
“Following this study and consultation with other stakeholders, government will modify the localisation policy to cater for the smooth running of the industry and to ensure that farmers get the large of the efforts,” he continued.
Confirming that payment has not been effected as promised Thinyane further revealed that even Standard Lesotho Bank authorities did not know anything about such transactions having to be carried out.
“They did tell us that farmers will start getting payments today but so far nothing has happened. The Minister of Small Businesses, Chalane Phori, even wrote a letter to us saying people should start going to banks today but the bank management does not know anything about the news,” Thinyane added.
Similar sentiments were echoed by the spokesperson of the LNWMGA, Khotsang Moshoeshoe, who also indicated that no payment has been made. He added that Dr Majoro was not telling the truth about such payments.
“There is still no money and I am not surprised by any of these things. We said it long time ago that Maseru Dawning cannot be trusted but we were forced to take our produce there.
“So now they are saying they will pay for us? Yes, we do need the money but the unfortunate part is that it does not come from the sales of our produce but from the taxpayer’s money,” Moshoeshoe said in an interview with Public Eye yesterday.
Public Eye has since learned that Maseru Dawning has urged farmers to start going to the bank today (Friday) and not on Thursday.
This, the paper understands, is because Standard Lesotho Bank has made it clear that they could not make any payment exceeding M3 million as was requested.
In 2018, farmers started delivering their wool and mohair produce to Maseru Dawning following the introduction of new wool and mohair regulations, banning farmers from selling their produce from outside the country.
After a series of protests from farmers, the regulations were them amended, paving way for the licensing of the five wool and mohair brokers that included the South Africa renowned broker BKB.
However, BKB later pulled out saying it was necessarily expensive and time consuming to come and do business and auctioning in Lesotho. They suggested that the system should go back to how it used to be where wool and mohair farmers were able to market and sell their products in South Africa on their own.