THE government is being accused of neglecting to provide the COVID-19 relief monies as promised back in 2020, according to scores of vendors in Maseru who are organising a major demonstration for Wednesday next week.
June 15, 2023
3 min read
Mass protests loom as hawkers demand answers
Street vendors selling their ware along King's Way Street
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The hawkers are also requesting that the government implement strong procedures to make sure that foreign companies do not run operations that are, by law, only for Basotho.
The Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project has discovered that M34 982 500 has not yet been given to local SMMEs who were eligible for the COVID-19 relief fund, which the government announced in 2020.
In an effort to lessen the negative effects of the national lockdown, the government established an M50 million Private Sector COVID-19 Relief Fund under the Lesotho Enterprise Assistance Programme (LEAP) inside the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP).
Only M15 017 500 s previously disclosed by the PSCEDP, has been dispersed to local firms through the Ministry of Finance, leaving a staggering M34 982 500 as the unallocated amount.
“We want the M34 million as promised, and the Ministry of Finance is responsible for the disbursement of such a package. This is after we could not agree on anything with the Ministry of Trade. So, if nothing happens between now and next week, we are indeed going for a mass protest. We shall go straight to the Prime Minister because his ministries are failing us,” the president of the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Association, Motlere Thobi, said during a media briefing this week.
In response to some of the grievances tabled by the street vendors, particularly regarding the COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Ministry of Trade initially revealed that it had disbursed all the funds that were in its possession in the previous phase, urging the street vendor associations to go straight to the Ministry of Finance to claim their monies.
“Ntate Matekane promised us a lot of things, but we are surprised that up to now, nothing is really happening. He is slowly turning out to be no different from all the past leaders, who were only good on promises and nothing else. We shall go straight to him, whether with violence or not, if our challenges are not answered,” Thobi added.
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The M15 million that has so far been distributed has managed to provide financial relief to a total of 1 018 formal businesses that shared a total of M9 290 000 amongst themselves.
While there were a couple of challenges on the side of informal businesses, 11 455 businesses benefited, sharing a total of M5 727 500.
Each of these informal businesses took home M500 in relief funds.
The continuous delay in disbursing such funds has resulted in the collapse of many other small businesses that could not survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, unemployment skyrocketed while hunger and poverty became the order of the day for many.
In June 2021, scores of street vendors in Maseru took to the streets, embarking on illegal protests and demanding the release of COVID-19 relief packages as promised by the government.
During the protests that ensued, some shops were looted and a few burned, before police could intervene and disperse the protesters.