‘Basotho not benefiting from minerals’

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By Kefiloe Kajane

In the past two weeks Lesotho’s mining industry has produced some of its biggest diamonds yet – a 442-carat gem and a 233-carat stone.

However, this has added to the debate that in spite of its wealth of diamonds, the country has nothing to show for it as it does benefit that much economically and it remains to languish in abject poverty.

Transformation Resource Centre Human Rights Officer Rapelang Mosae, shares this sentiment. He believes that Lesotho does not benefit much from its minerals, especially the mines in which the government only holds a 30 percent stake.

“This is because it is never clear what the revenue generated from mining is used for and how we plan to use it as a country. As a person you only hear that we get so much in royalties but we do not even know what is it used for.

“We are not benefiting at all if, as a country we are not even sure about the money that we get from the sale of our minerals. Another surprising issue is how we arrived at the 30 percent shareholding when we are the owners of the product. Even before we get to that we need to have a clear plan on how are we going to use it, we also need transparency from the government.

“The reason why people are complaining that Lesotho is not benefiting from its minerals, it is because the government is not transparent on what it is that is done with the money that we get from the mines” he said.

Mosae indicated that Lesotho needs a clear frame work on what it is that the country expects to get from mining.

“We need to thoroughly plan the revenue from mining at the beginning of each financial year, for example how much dividends we going to get as a country so that there can be a clear plan on how they are going to be used to boost the economy.

“The country also needs to revise the shareholding. Most of the mining companies do not pay royalties to the government. There should be a strict rule on royalties so that when companies come to mine in the country they know that they need to pay royalties; the government has to be transparent on that too.

“We need proper presence of government in the mines, just like we have representatives in operations like the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority. This will enable government monitor and report back to the people on what is happening. We have heard that there are people who are government representatives in the mines, but it is never clear what they actually do,” Mosae said.

Meanwhile, the commissioner of mines Pheello Tjatja described the latest discoveries as one of the greatest finds. He said the country receives 10 percent in the form of royalties due to the low stake owned by the government of Lesotho in the mining companies in Lesotho.

Tjatja disclosed that there are cases when one percent of the proceeds is channeled towards community development projects.

In another development, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has previously has noted that the government of Lesotho does not have a proper monitoring mechanism, and therefore recommended that the ministry of mining must implement a 24-hour/7 days monitoring system from production until the last stage after the diamond has been sold.

Tjatja was, however, dismissive in this regard, describing the PAC recommendations as ‘based on allegations while the ministry is involved in the production process.’ and that PAC is based on allegations. He added that he has never seen the report himself.

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