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Wool, mohair farmers want new rules blocked



MASERU – WOOL and Mohair farmers have filed an urgent application in the High Court a seeking to block new rules they say are prejudicial to them. The Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) is asking the High Court to declare a section in the controversial new Agricultural Marketing Regulations of 2018 unconstitutional.

The farmers’ spokesman, Khotsang Moshoeshoe, who is the chairman for Mokhotlong district’s Thabang Shearing Shed, told a press conference on Monday that they resolved to go to court on an urgent basis because parliament has abruptly adjourned for winter rest and therefore could not attend to their grievances.

Moshoeshoe also said the association’s efforts to meet the Ministers of Agriculture Mahala Molapo, Small Businesses Development Chalane Phori and Trade’s Tefo Mapesela were not successful.
The association’s gripe is that under the new regulations, the Licensing of Wool and Mohair Business Schedule 2(1) is prejudicial to farmers as individuals and as an association.

It states that a person shall not be involved in business of

a) wool and mohair shearing shed,
b) wool and mohair brokering,
c) wool and mohair testing,
d) wool and mohair trading and auctioning,
e) wool and mohair processing and exporting unless he has obtained a license to do so from the Minister responsible for Small Businesses Development, Cooperatives and Marketing.

Additionally, it is stated that a holder of the export licence shall not export wool and mohair unless it is prepared, brokered, traded and auctioned in Lesotho. The association and independent wool and mohair traders who were represented at the press conference say they were not consulted at all during the formulation of these new regulations hence the regulations are not for their benefit.

“We were only shocked that the association was not consulted in the making of these regulations,” Moshoeshoe said.
“Upon the passing of these regulations an appeal was submitted to the Economic Cluster Committee of the National Assembly in an attempt to appeal and reveal LNWMGA stance on Legal Notice No.37 of 2018,” he said.

Moshoeshoe said the only contact that was made by the ministry was through a letter from the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Small Business on May 14, 2018 proposing to have a meeting on May 30, 2018, where they anticipated to be engaged in discussions on the proposed regulations.
“To our dismay, on the 18th May 2018 we learned that the regulations had been tabled in Parliament,” Moshoeshoe said.

In their letter the association said the Legal Notice No. 37 of 2018 should be held in abeyance until the following are undertaken:
Government should engage the farmers and farmer organizations for the farmers to have input in the regulations.
They also say in court papers members of their organisation are currently using Lesotho Government owned shearing sheds.

Schedule 1 of Legal Notice No.37 of 2018 has reference only to ‘Individual Citizen’ shearing shed, “clarity has to be provided as how to use the Wool and Mohair Farmers Associations and Cooperatives shall be accommodated in the licensing”.
The farmers say auctioning wool and mohair has to be undertaken under well prepared auction floors and well organised contingent of buyers for effective competition.

“We are not aware of the presence of this infrastructure to effectively handle Lesotho clip for this important activity,” the court papers say.
“Lesotho mohair has been shorn, graded and packaged for export to the international markets. While the discussion and other preparatory procedures for local auctioning of Lesotho wool and mohair are under discussion as we propose, we strongly recommend that 2018 Mohair Clip be marketed under The Agricultural Marketing (Trading) Regulations, 1974,” the farmers say.

Moshoeshoe said the association’s expectation was that parliament would have discussed their appeal and held the regulations in abeyance as proper consultations were to take place without frustrating the flow of mohair clip which auctions are in session.
The association said during the ongoing visits that the Minister of Small Businesses and other ministers have embarked on to engage with wool and mohair farmers, they have not been given a chance to speak as the ministry only chooses certain people to speak at the gatherings.

The association also said it had not entered into any agreement with Maseru Dawning (Pty) Ltd in relation to wool and mohair sales.
“On the 31st of March 2016, LNWMGA legally entered into a Property Development Joint Venture (JV) Agreement with Maseru Dawning (Pty) Ltd to develop what was to be named Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre,” Moshoeshoe said.
He stated that Section 1.3 (a) of the joint venture states talks about the development of wool and mohair business in Lesotho, including building the Lesotho Wool Centre which include the greasy wool store, wool-bailing factory, pre-sale sample store, testing lab, wool classing factory, wool transportation centre, office building etc.

In 1.3 (b) Maseru Dawning Trading (Pty) Ltd agrees to compile the Business Plan and the design of the Lesotho Wool Centre Scheme, Operating Scheme, Financing and Repayment Scheme and Training Scheme.

In 1.3 (c) parties agree to set up a Joint Venture company where the proportion of shareholding is LNWMGA shall hold 75 percent, and Maseru Dawning Trading (Pty) Ltd shall hold 25 percent.
The scope of the company was agreed to be to build and operate the Lesotho Wool Centre which includes many functions ranging from wool bailing, transportation, finance, etc.

“All these things are agreed by both parties and detailed in the co-operation agreement.”
“It honestly came as a shock when the association received a High Court Order dated 14th November 2017 which technically prohibited the association from exporting wool to the international market,” Moshoeshoe said.

“This was a situation that was furthermore worsened by freezing of a paying BKB bank account that frustrated the farmers’ wool sale payments.”
Both matters were separately challenged by the BKB and the association in the courts of law, and Maseru Dawning lost the case while BKB bank account was unfrozen.

Moshoeshoe said that the association has always been faithful to their partner in this joint venture.
“However, what happened is that our partner has been hijacked by certain ministers who are trying to push their own agendas,” Moshoeshoe said.
He elaborated that the association had tasked four members to work together with the CEO of Maseru Dawning to ensure that the construction of the centre is done.

“This is where our members were hijacked by ministers but three of them after sitting down saw their mistake and apologised but one did not do so and was kicked out of the executive committee.” He urged Basotho to sign a petition which will later be presented to the government, as this is an important industry that employs thousands of Basotho.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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