By Staff Writers

Maseru, Jan 23 (The Night’s Watch) – The South African Police Service (SAPS) on Tuesday busted a truck which was loaded with sheep wool to an estimated value of M 8 million.

The illegal consignment came from Lesotho and was apparently destined for South Africa.

“A 37-year old man is expected to appear before Fouriesburg Magistrate on 23 January 2020 on a charge of possession of suspected stolen property,” Office of the Free State Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane said in a statement on Wednesday.

The suspect was arrested by members of Fouriesburg SAPS on the R711 Road.

Free State police said this was after following an intelligence driven information about a truck that was travelling from Lesotho full of sheep wool “and the driver had no proper documents for possession thereof”.

According to the statement, after being stopped, police requested to search the truck and sheep wool to an estimated value of R8 million rand was recovered.

“Free State Provincial Commissioner has welcomed the arrest and appreciated community members for assisting the police by providing information that led to this arrest,” the statement read.

Wool and mohair are among Lesotho’s most important industries, with an annual turnover of more than R800-million. Many poor rural Basotho depend on it.

In June last year, thousands of Basotho wool and mohair farmers marched to parliament on Friday and presented a petition expressing concerns that they were forced by government to supply their product to a Lesotho-registered company run by Chinese businessman Guohui Stone Shi, to the detriment of the industry.

The farmers wanted government to revoke the ‘draconian’ Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Regulations No.65 of 2018, it allegedly imposed on them in 2018.

Under these regulations, which came into effect in September 2018, all wool and mohair producers were forced to cut ties with South African-based wool brokerage BKB and compelled to supply to Stone Shi’s company, Maseru Dawning.

Some farmers refused while others complied with the new requirements.

Those who refused argued that they were not consulted, insisted that the wool was theirs and that they would sell it to whoever they choose and said the new dispensation amounted to the ambush of state policy by private business interests.

The government defended this monopolisation of the wool industry as a move to bring the industry under local control, create jobs for Basotho and benefit the fiscus.

Those who complied and sent their wool to Maseru Dawning later blasted the centre for failing to fulfil its promise of paying them before end of 2018.

The frustrated farmers also accused the centre of not stipulating the total amount of money they were supposed to get for their product.

To date, some farmers have not been paid for the wool they sent to Stone Shi’s centre.

Last year parliament approved Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing’s motion which proposed the establishment of an ad-hoc committee to conduct investigations into the sales of wool and mohair before and after enactment of the wool and mohair Regulations.

The committee recommeneded that Minister of Small Businesses Development Chalane Phori draw new regulations in a manner that would allow farmers to sell their wool at a market of their choice, effectively scrapping the localisation policy.

The recommendation was adopted by parliament.

But to parliament’s surprise, a fortnight after being given a seven-days ultimatum to have drawn the new regulations, Phori did not comply and farmers continued to be subjected to the same regulations parliament repealed.

This led to a skirmish in parliament in November when a sitting of the national assembly degenerated into a fist-fight between massed ranks of rival MPs who threw wooden panels, documents and anything else they could get their hands on across the chamber at each other. NW

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