Lesotho: Unhappy Wool Farmers Plan Another Demonstration

Wool and mohair farmers are planning another massive demonstration to compel the government to revoke the controversial wool and mohair regulations which they say have impoverished them.

The 18 October 2019 planned demonstration follows the farmers' June 2019 protest where the farmers petitioned parliament to scrap the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations of 2018.

The June march attracted hundreds of sympathisers that included legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties among others.

The Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) recently told the media that the government's three-month moratorium to allow wool famers to trade their wool wherever they preferred was a farce as no legal backing action was taken to suspend the regulations.

"We would like to point out that when we petitioned parliament, we were clear that we were targeting to sell fibre in the next auction which was scheduled for 13 August (mohair) and 14 August 2019 (wool)," LNWMGA chairperson Mokuinihi Thinyane said.

"It is with great frustration for the association to remind the world that, a few days before the march, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane issued a statement that Basotho growers could sell their fibre wherever they wanted for three months. This is because this statement was unfortunately, never backed by a relevant government gazette or legal backing. This unfortunately resulted in the state veterinary doctor being unable to issue export permits for the fibre."

Mr Thinyane said they are now in the process of obtaining permission to stage the next demonstration.

"We would like to announce that we are currently applying for a permit from the police, as we are planning the biggest march and stay away protest in the history of protests in Lesotho should the government maintain the regulations.

"Our aim is to come out in numbers peacefully to parliament to state our grievances on 18 October 2019.

"We are in trouble but we shall never be destroyed. However, it must be noted that our strength emanates from both our beloved nation and the international community," Mr Thinyane said.

He also appealed for support from the rest of the country to put on their grey blankets (kobo e thokoa) in solidarity with the farmers every Friday until the government gives in to their demands.

For the first time in over 40 years, Lesotho wool and mohair farmers were in May 2018 prohibited from selling their fibre through South African-based brokers after the introduction of the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair) Regulations.

The regulations forbid anyone from trading in wool and mohair without a licence from the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing. They also stipulate that all the transactions should be done from Lesotho.

The farmers were instead forced to trade their fibre through the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC), a joint venture between wool and mohair farmers and Chinese owned Maseru Dawning. The farmers control 75 percent while Maseru Dawning controls the remaining 25 percent.

However, the farmers through the LNWMGA, are unhappy with the arrangement and complain that their payment are low and delayed.

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