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Parliamentarians in bloody scuffle over wool and mohair farmers

Billy Ntaote

Lesotho’s wool and mohair farmers’ protracted fight to see a localisation policy imposed on their business reversed yesterday precipitated a bloody scuffle in the national assembly of Lesotho.

Farmers demands to see the wool and mohair marketing regulations of 2018 imposed on their business by small business, cooperatives and marketing minister Chalane Phori were earlier this month answered when parliament unanimously voted that new regulations be drawn.

Parliament had instructed Minister Phori to draw new regulations in a manner that shall allow farmers to sell their wool at a market of their choice, effectively scrapping the localisation policy.

But to Parliament’s surprise a fortnight later since being given a seven days ultimatum to have drawn the new regulations, Phori has not complied and farmers continue to be subjected to the same regulations parliament repealed.

Phori was not in the house yesterday when members of parliament demanded the Deputy Speaker Teboho Lehloenya halt all other business of the house until the new wool and mohair marketing regulations are tabled before the house by the minister.

But the unfazed Lehloenya proceeded as though it was business, as usual, irking the angry legislators who were now raising various points of order demanding that they be heard.

destroyed desks of the national assembly of Lesotho after parliamentarians fight

These resulted in a nasty fight between opposition legislators demanding the Minister must be held accountable and bring to the house the new regulations that would allow farmers to sell their wool and mohair product at a place of their choice without being prohibited to export wool before it is sold in the country.

Among the most contentious issues brought by the localisation policy was a clause in the regulations that prohibited a 40-year-long practice of farmers directly exporting their wool and mohair to South Africa to be sold by brokers in Port Elizabeth.

The new regulations did not only restrict the export of wool and mohair prior to being sold in the country, but its problems were also compounded by the Minster’s decision to only license one broker to serve more than 40 000 wool and mohair farmers.

The Chinese national, Stone Shi’s company Maseru Dawning Trading operating as a broker of wool failed to deliver on promises of higher returns for farmers and also dismally failed farmers when it paid farmers wool and mohair proceeds very late.

According to the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association Chairperson, Mokoenehi Thinyane, the farmers were left destitute as much live hand to mouth and are entirely dependent on their wool and mohair proceeds.

Now, after Shi failed to deliver resulting from many protests from farmers, more brokers have been engaged to sell the wool and mohair produce locally to international buyers but challenges persist, hence the farmers demand to be allowed to sell their wool anywhere they may choose.

But with Parliament’s resolution for farmers to sell their wool and mohair at markets of their own choosing being stalled by Minister Phori, farmers are set to experience yet a second year of delayed payments of their proceeds.

In an interview, the Democratic Congress Deputy leader and Qalabane constituency legislator Motlalentoa Letsosa argued the fracas in the house that ended with the Thabana-Morena constituency legislator Selibe Mochoboroane and Bela-Bela constituency legislator Litšoane Litšoane both sustaining head injuries was incited by the Deputy Speaker Lehloenya.

Letsosa argued that in most cases the house is disorderly when conducted by the Deputy Speaker more than when conducted by the Speaker.

He accused Lehloenya of trying to suspend Members of Parliament for their persistence from his party Serialong Qoo of Malingoaneng and Senqu legislator Likeleli Tampane but they resisted his attempts in demand for government to be accountable on the wool and mohair regulations.

Legislators entered into a nasty fight that left both Mochoboroane injured with blood oozing from his head that led to him being hospitalised.

Contacted for comment, Lehloenya denied the claims as unfounded saying he runs the business of parliament in line with parliamentary processes and nothing else.

Initially, Lehloenya did not want to comment on the fracas that ensured in the house saying “Ntate Billy I’ll have no comment on your question, as it all happened after I’d left the House for a recess”.

But when pressed with more questions on allegations that he incited the violence in the house, he said “You’re misdirecting yourself on spurious allegations, with due respect. I’m only guided by Standing Orders and other laws in my work. Talk to me about adherence to that work ethic and nothing else”.

Lehloenya added that some of the occurrences are criminal in nature, which he pointed are the preserve of the police.

He concluded other issues will be dealt with through parliamentary processes.

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