Since the era of Covid-19 most business entities chiefly those dealing in import and export have been under threat, first of the corona-induced lockdown regulations, then the long-drawn bout on the sale and or auctioneering of wool and mohair. In the latest spate of these events, wool and mohair farmers blockaded transport and all forms of movement at the countryâ€™s main border post, the Maseru Bridge adjoining Maseru to the neighbouring Free State province.
The blockade happened yesterday (November 05) when irate wool and mohair farmers learned that they were not being permitted to cross the border into SA to advance their business endeavours, because they did not possess some documentation to aid their passage.
According to â€˜Maitumeleng Maqebi who is the national farmersâ€™ representative for the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Farmers Growersâ€™ Association, it was the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing that imposed the new requisite for the farmers to be able to cross the border.
The farmers indicated that all the necessary paperwork was in order for them to cross the border except for â€œsome permit apparently found at the ministry of small businessâ€.
â€œWe waited for more than a week for these movement permits from the ministry until it was time to load the trucks, which we did hoping that maybe we would get the movement permits at the border since we had been going to the ministry office with nothing forthcoming,â€ Maqebi said.
She indicated that there are some trucks ferrying similar cargo that had been allowed to cross as normal as before without being asked for a movement permit, but to their dismay they had to produce it yet the ministry had failed to award them such.
When all couldnâ€™t work out to their satisfaction they went back to the ministry whose offices they unfortunately found locked with no services being provided a notice to the effect that no service are available at the ministry because of the corona virus scare.
In statement released this week, the small business development ministry indicated that the Ministry of Trade and Industry with whom they work closely had reported a positive covid-19 case, therefore the offices were closed until next week Monday (November, 9) in order to fumigate the premises against the virus.
It was then that the farmers blocked traffic with their trucks in protest.
There were about four wool and mohair trucks that blocked the Maseru Bridge.
The farmers told this publication that upon blockading the border they were approached by border staff who sought clarity to which it was resolved to call the Principal Secretary of the small business development ministry Tankiso Phapano who flatly refused to attend the meeting.
â€œPS refused to attend the meeting after he was called to come and meet with us,â€ said Tjamela one of the association members.
Meanwhile in a separate with this paper, PS Phapano confirmed to refusing attendance of the meeting at the border because as a ministry they cannot be seen to be entertaining habits of people who refuse to comply with set statutes.
â€œWe have the office so, we cannot be called to attend meetings at the border especially with the people who refuse to comply with new regulations, that way we would be entertaining them. If there are some issues to be sorted out our offices are open.
â€œYesterday I was listening to one of the local radios and I heard one of their members say with impunity that they would not comply with the rules and apply for a movement permit, and that they would just go to the border to cross and would find the permit already at the Maseru Bridge.
â€œThere is no wool and mohair truck that will get movement permit while already at the border. We made it clear that the permits should be requested some days before the delivery. The reasons being, we need some information to be filed,â€ PS said.
When this publication contacted the farmers last night before going to press, the trucks were still at the border.