business

Dec. 22, 2020

STAFF REPORTER

3 min read

Small-scale entrepreneurs want ministry dismantled

Small-scale entrepreneurs want ministry dismantled

The Minister of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing, Keketso Sello

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DISGRUNTLED members of the Micro, Macro and Medium Enterprises Association based in Berea, Leribe and Botha-Bothe have called for the dismantling of the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing, accusing it of failing to protect them against unfair foreign competition.

The association blames the ministry for turning a blind eye to the unfair competition posed by Chinese entrepreneurs who fight for the same market as its members.

The Chairman of the association, Motlere Thobi has therefore taken a swipe at the ministry, describing it as both useless and not working for the benefit of Basotho business people.

“We lodged this complaint about the unfair competition from the local Chinese business community to the ministry as far back as 2015, but to date, there has been no positive feedback and instead the ministry refers us to the Ministry of Trade and Industry,” he said.

Mr Thobi added: “This is an old culture by foreign investors to come to Lesotho and sell small items that are only supposed to be sold by the indigenous traders.”

Asked to comment on the matter, the Minister of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Keketso Sello watered down the allegations against the ministry.

He denied not interfering in the affairs of small traders, especially between Basotho and the Chinese.

“There is a policy that might be finalised by February next year that is going to state how the ministry has to work. It is true that when the ministry was founded, it was derived from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

“But it is incorrect when the association claims that we are not doing anything to assist its members,” Mr Sello said.

He said they have travelled across the country to tell small business people as to what the ministry does in order to be of assistance to them.

Mr Thobi charged that bigger and more successful supermarkets especially those owned by the Chinese sell small items such as sweets, one by one.

“They even cut a head of cabbage in half and sell rice in small packets which are supposed to be sold by small business people like our members,” he said.

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“We are not happy with the response we received from the ministry when they lodged our complaint. The ministry said there is no particular law that protects us as small traders,” he said, adding that while they welcome foreign investors in the country, the latter should however, rake in big businesses.

The association, according to Mr Thobi sees the small business ministry only as a vehicle meant to squander public funds.

“This ministry is like a house built without a foundation because it does not have laws that govern it.

“What also hurts is that the Chinese business community also trades in small buildings which would otherwise be used by the locals to house their own businesses.

“We fail to understand the mandate of the ministry if it fails to protect us,” he said.

But Mr Sello was quick to show that they will not let local traders suffer, adding that they have to formulate appropriate policies to work with.

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