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Decision to sue govt unnecessary – PSFL boss

PSFL boss Thabo Qhesi


Jan. 29, 2021 3 min read

3 min read


THE conclusion by street vendors to take the government to court challenging its decision to prevent them from trading during lockdown period was not necessary and has a political stink, the Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) Thabo Qhesi said.

He said doors were still open between street vendors’ representatives and the government to discuss matters at length but the former instead quickly rushed to court.

Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro announced a nationwide lockdown two weeks ago, forcing all non-essential services to stop operating.

This, the PM was doing following a surge in COVID-19 cases since December last year. Cases have been skyrocketing since then, with the country currently having 5 503 active cases of the pandemic and 146 related deaths. A total of 46 958 cases have been reported.

Street vendors, like other service providers that are likely to super spread the virus were among those hard hit by government decision and are struggling to make ends meet.

One of their main arguments in their court papers is that they face starvation as their livelihood is brought to an abrupt end by the government through the lockdown.

They further argue that there are no contingency plans to assist them, notwithstanding the fact that their businesses are closed.

“There are no coherent reasons why onions, cabbages, tomatoes and apples are deemed essentials only when in the shops and nonessential when on the streets. The street vendors are only placed at a competitive disadvantage to shops for no good grounds,” they argued in the court papers.

According to them, there are no compelling rational grounds to have closed their businesses when in fact other businesses, like big retailers offering same goods are allowed to operate.

This, they say is simply to give big retailers a monopoly.

Their urgent application which was filed on January 15 has been postponed to February 7.

Their decision to take government to court has been highly criticised by PSFL, arguing that the move signified lack of cooperation, particularly because doors were still open for engagements.


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“There was still room for engagement on this matter because the Ministry of Small Businesses was already working on building a database for the very same people for easier operations.

“The situation is so dicey and has some political interference in it because firstly, street vendors do not have enough funds to take the government to court. It must be a move by a few players who have their own interest to expose government. I do not see why they rushed to court when there was still room for engagements,” Mr Qhesi said.

But he believes that unlike in the previous lockdown period, this time around there were no consultations made in order for people to prepare ahead.  

This is evident in that even the COVID-19 impact and mitigation committee that was led by the Ministry of Finance and Development planning in collaboration with the private sector is no longer active. 

Meanwhile street vendors have since last week been receiving the COVID-19 relief funds that they were promised during the first lockdown.

On Monday, those working on the streets of Maseru received food packages from the government through the Ministry of small businesses.

 

 

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