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Meat traders want Phori taken to task



MASERU – THE Meat Traders Lesotho, an association of butcheries, wants Parliament to take to task Small Business Minister Chalane Phori after he allegedly refused to open up the borders to allow meat imports into Lesotho.
The association’s secretary general, Teboho Motšepe, told thepost in an exclusive interview this week that they wrote to Parliament last week because Phori was giving them a cold shoulder.
Motšepe runs a series of butcheries in the country.

“We wrote to Parliament’s Economic Cluster Committee last week and we also want to write to the Prime Minister too,” Motšepe said.
He said this was after the same parliamentary portfolio committee ordered Phori to open the borders for red meat but he refused. They now want Parliament to take action against the minister.
“The minister told us that he won’t do that, now they say we are political,” he said.

Motšepe said the problem with Phori was that he had created a monopoly for Meraka Lesotho, the national abattoir that is also offering services similar to small butcheries’ thus being in unfair competition.
What has irked the association is that Meraka Lesotho has links with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s official trade adviser, John Xie, a Mosotho of Chinese origin.

Phori has barred grade A red meat from entering the borders through any meat dealer except Meraka Lesotho.
Motšepe said Meraka is engaged in “unfair competition with local small butcheries”.
He said while the government had said it wanted to improve local businesses it was clear that they do not have Grade A meat in Lesotho.
Motšepe argued that the policy was meant to boost Meraka Lesotho abattoir to generate more profits.

He said they support the government policy but they should have taken time to study both the pros and cons.
He said Meraka sells small packages yet it is their supplier.
“They make us buy from them while they also sell in small packages,” he said.
Motšepe said they pleaded with the government to lift the ban for red meat because their businesses were collapsing.
He said they asked the ministry to stop Meraka from competing with them in vain.

As a result of this about 83 Basotho lost jobs from their association’s members after their butcheries collapsed.
He said by the end of this year another big butchery will also close down due to the tough operating environment. He declined to mention its name.
He said late last year the ministry told them that they had found an investor who would come and process meat but to their dismay they discovered that the promised investor was found by John Xie.

He said they are going to press Parliament to work out their grievances.
He said they used to get credits in South Africa so they want to go back there.
Motšepe argued that the borders were closed so that the Chinese could make a lot of profits.
He said he used to generate sales up to M260 000 monthly but now he only sells M56 000.

He complained that Phori, instead of solving their problems, said their businesses collapse because they are incompetent.
Motšepe said Basotho butcheries were collapsing while those owned by the Chinese were thriving.
Contacted for comment, Phori said Motšepe knows how the ministry works.
He said there is a procedure to be followed.
“They should come to the ministry for negotiations but if they want to play politics let them do so,” Phori said.
The minister said the traders’ association committee has factions where both the secretary general and the chairman do not see things from the same angle.

He urged them to collaborate and approach him properly.
Phori said the association was formed by the ministry.
He said the committee is the one that has signed which borders should be closed for Grade A red meat.

Nkheli Liphoto


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