Africa-Press – Lesotho. LITHOTENG legislator, Rethabile Letlailana, has called for an independent audit into the procurement of farming inputs by the government. Mr Letlailana says the harvest does not match the massive funding injected into the Block Farming Project jointly run by farmers and the government.
According to Mr Letlailana, what government has claimed to have ploughed nationwide, is only equivalent to one farmer’s field in neighbouring South Africa, and this shouldn’t have cost M100 million and was certainly no cause for celebration.
“When one looks at the fields which government claims to have already ploughed, they don’t match the money said to have been spent.
It shouldn’t have cost government over M100 million for 6,000 hectares. That money doesn’t match what’s on the ground. That’s too much money which will need to be audited,” Mr Letlailana said.
Besides calling for an independent audit, Mr Letlailana also made damning allegations that government has been syphoning money from the public purse for its own aggrandisement.
“Talking of the funds injected into the farming project and looking at the fields, one can only conclude that this is one of the easiest schemes which government has been using to syphon funds from the public purse.
This is another way being used to steal money from government, because some individuals have decided to keep government fertilisers in their personal storerooms and are even selling it to those in need of it.
“They have taken fertilisers and kept them to themselves, while others are suffering and don’t even know where to get them.
The same fertilisers whose packaging is written “property of Lesotho-not for sale”, are being sold to some desperate farmers, who don’t know where else to go,” said Mr Letlailana.
Mr Letlailana was making reference to allegations made by his ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) colleague Thuso Makhalanyane, representing the Abia constituency, that their party’s Thaba-Bosiu legislator Isaac Malebaleba, acting in cahoots with Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Thabo Mofosi, had stolen hundreds of bags of fertiliser which were being kept in storage at Mr Malebaleba’s home.
Speaking of the agreement between government and people owning fields where the state takes 80-percent of the produce leaving the farmers with 20-percent, Mr Letlailana said this deal could been crafted much better.
“The 80/20 arrangement isn’t all that bad, but the owners of the fields should have been given a choice and opportunity to produce for themselves by being assisted with resources and the playfield levelled.
That would have been an option presented to such persons before they could consider a partnership. “Some of the farmers might have liked to do things for themselves, but they were never afforded such a chance to choose what they wanted.
For those who planted on their own, it has been quite steep because they could not find fertilizers anywhere as some people in government had stashed them in their own storerooms and selling them to their friends and those with connections,” stated Mr Letlailana.
He also said for government to have the public clap for them on the yield, was like lauding a fish for swimming. “For them to be making people clap for them on that small produce, is not right. We should be talking of at least 150,000 hectares and not 6,000 hectares. We have played,” he added.
For the 2023/2024 budget allocation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition was allocated M1.1 billion intended to ensure among others procurement of climate resilient seeds in consideration of the climate change phenomenon, as well for an increase in crop-production and to also cater for subsidies on fertilizers and seeds ranging between 70 to 80 percent.