Over the past years, Lesotho has been spending over M69 Million annually on the importation of bottled water although one of the countryâ€™s main natural resources is water.
However, in a turn of events by the government, the ministry of Agriculture, Marketing and Food Security under the leadership of Minister Tefo Mapesela imposed an immediate halt of the importation of bottled water in a move to grow local water bottlersâ€™ businesses and help boost the economy of Lesotho.
Local water bottling businesses have lauded the move although they have decried not being warned in time in order to duly upgrade their productions.
The Dewdrop Managing Director, Haroon Ahmed, emphasized his excitement at the decision by government.
â€œIt was a very good idea to stop the importation of bottled water in the country, as it gives the locals a chance to bottle their own water and create more jobs for Basotho,â€ Ahmed said.
He, however, expressed concern at the possibility of being inundated by demands as a result of not being forewarned about governmentâ€™s plans. He stressed that as much as the initiative is of great importance, it would have been even better if the government had made them aware in time. He said he believed that proper preparations needed to have been made by the local businessmen to be ready to supply enough quantity for the country.
â€œIt came as a shock to us to hear on the news that South Africa will not be selling bottled water to Lesothoâ€. However, Ahmed says because of the requisition made by the government to stop the importation of water, he has since gotten more offers from the local businesses to supply them with water hence the company will be hiring 10 more Basotho. The company currently hires 12 staffers. He says he will have to buy more equipment to increase the capacity.
â€œIf only the government could talk to the banks to lend us money at minimal interest so that we could purchase all the necessary equipment,â€ he said adding that there is still a long way to go for his business as he going to have to renovate his warehouse.
On the other hand, Lekhalong Natural Spring Waterâ€™s â€˜Mantebele Malebo expressed worry at the timing of the ministryâ€™s decision.
â€œI am a bit skeptical about how the South African market will take this issue, because almost all raw materials we use for bottling water is from South Africaâ€ said Malebo, adding that the materials include bottles and bottle caps.
She however, expressed her gratitude to the government for taking an initiative in hindering the importation of bottled water in Lesotho.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry was not ready to comment on the matter as ministry offcers sent this reporter from pillar to post with no clear answer. The PRO of the Ministry of Agriculture â€˜Mamoholi Mphutlane was attending a funeral hence couldnâ€™t comment. On the other hand, Lekhooe Makhate from the Department of Market denied any knowledge of the initiagtive saying he had only heard about it in the media. The minister of Agriculture, Minister Mapesela could not be reached as his phon.