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Wool farmers furious



MASERU-Basotho wool and mohair farmers are furious.
This week a number of them started receiving what was said to be payment for their wool and mohair. The amounts range between M500 and M3 000.
The farmers feel cheated and used.
Stone Shi, the owner of the Lesotho Wool Centre which is the only company allowed to buy wool and mohair, said these small amounts are the initial payments.

He said so far he has paid 400 farmers but that number could reach 1 000 by Friday this week.
“So far the amount paid out is less than M10 million but next week it will be much more than M10 million,” he said.
When the payments started reflecting some farmers thought that it was just a small token to help them get by while they wait for the main payment.
But as news spread that this was actually a part-payment some farmers are boiling with anger.
Khotsang Moshoeshoe, a renowned farmer from Mokhotlong, said he is aware of the small payments farmers are getting.

Moshoeshoe said the “small payments are meant to silence the farmers who are already restless.
He said the “auction’’ which was said to be in November 2018 has never taken place.
He alleged that Stone Shi has invited other Chinese partners into the project, including one from Gauteng.
He claimed that Shi and his partners took wool and mohair of the highest quality.
Moshoeshoe said the small payment farmers are getting are a share of M2 million brought by Shi’s partner from Gauteng.

The amount was transferred into Stone’s account, he said.
But the Minister of Small Businesses Chalane Phori said he did not have any information regarding the M2 million.
“Where is that from, I cannot comment on something that I do not know,” Phori said.
He only confirmed that the payments are being processed.
However he referred thepost to the centre in Thaba-Bosiu for further details.
“We only come in as the ministry if things get out of hand,” the minister said.

Moshoeshoe said the account into which the money was transferred belongs to Shi and his partner from Gauteng.
He said Basotho were fooled to believe that the wool and mohair centre is for the Basotho farmers.
He claimed that even in the court they said that their products should not be taken out of the country before they receive their payments.
Moshoeshoe further said it is the government that has created the confusion by taking away the products of Basotho without their permission.

And according to him, this has affected Basotho farmers badly because they have failed to put bread on the table through the sale of wool and mohair.
He said such farmers are now facing certain poverty as they are even unable to send their children to school.
Ts’eliso Setho who is a member of the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association said they are all stunned by this flawed payment of their products.

He said they adhered to the government’s policy to sell their products at Thaba-Bosiu wool and mohair centre.
Setho said what hurts them mostly is that they sheared their goats in April 2018 while the sheep were sheared in October last year.
He said they have not received anything while the agreement was that they will receive their payment before December last year.

He said he ekes his living solely from the sale of wool and mohair.
“This is a sure sign that I will be trapped in poverty,” Setho said.
He recalled that in their partnership with the BKB, there was transparency and they were even receiving their money on time.
“If there was a delay, it could only be for only two months,’’ he said.

Refiloe Mpobole

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