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An ill-thought out policy



AFTER two long years of painful prevarication, the government this week finally moved against Maseru Dawning, a controversial wool broking company, by suspending its licence. The suspension comes after bitter complaints by aggrieved farmers who have been complaining that they have not been paid for their wool and mohair. Maseru Dawning is owned by a controversial Chinese businessman, Stone Shi, who stands accused of fleecing farmers. Over the past two years, Shi appeared to have strong political backing from the then government led by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Since the enactment of the Wool and Mohair Regulations of 2018, the government had fiercely defended the new regulations. This was an ill-thought out policy that was implemented with a heavy hand and a shocking sense of vindictiveness against farmers. But even when it became clear that Shi had no capacity to deliver, the government put up a vigorous defence of Shi as it fought in his corner. Two years down the line it has become as clear as daylight that Shi is nothing short of a jumped up small-scale trader who should be nowhere near a national project of this magnitude. Two years down the line, Shi has dismally failed to deliver, leaving thousands of farmers on the verge of starvation and penury. What surprised us most was that even in the face of stern criticism, Shi had continued to put up a fight. He was adamant that he would eventually deliver. Now the chickens have come home to roost. It would be very easy for us to rub our hands in glee and say to the government: we told you so. We will however resist the urge to do so. But there are important lessons that we must glean from this fiasco. The first is that the decision to grant a monopoly to Shi was not only wrong but was highly ill-advised and irresponsible. This was a monopoly that should have never have been granted in the first place. Look at how it has pauperised Basotho in the space of two short years! The political fallout from this fiasco has also been massive. If the regulations had not been repealed, we could bet our last dollar that the wool and mohair issue was going to be a serious campaign subject at the next polls in 2022. To ensure we do not have a repeat of this scandal, we would want to see a full enquiry set up to establish how Shi managed to weave his way through government when he was awarded the licence in 2018. Such an inquiry must peel the veil to expose the role our politicians played in the whole debacle. A mere suspension is not enough at this time. We need a full investigation to uncover the rot. That investigation must expose the extent of the rot within the government ministries so that corrective measures can be taken. Never again must we allow a single businessman to run rings around government ministers and pauperise our people. What has happened with Shi has clearly vindicated farmers most of whom were fiercely hostile to the businessman’s new monopoly in town. With Maseru Dawning now out of the way, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro must clean up Thabane’s mess. Majoro must break the cult-like hold that Shi had on government ministers. Having burnt its fingers on this one, it is our hope that the government will now exercise due diligence before granting any monopoly to so-called foreign investors.  

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