MASERU-The Lesotho Congress for Democracy wants the government to have majority shareholding in all mining companies operating in Lesotho.
Presenting the party’s position at Wednesday’s seminar organised by the Policy Analysis and Research Institute of Lesotho, in collaboration with the South African Resource Watch, the chairperson of the LCD Elders’ Committee, Mr Mpho Malie, said the government should be in control of the country’s minerals, and not be a junior partner as is presently the case.
Malie, a former Minister of Trade, said in addition, a Mining Authority should oversee all the country’s mining operations in order to ensure more transparency.
“We need to see our people fully engaged in the mining industry; this is standard practice in other African countries, therefore we should do the same here in Lesotho. If the LCD becomes the government after the May 26 election, we will establish a Mining Authority within three months of assuming power.
“The Authority will be the overseer of mines and will be the one offering licenses, as well as determining companies that should operate here in our country. Basotho should at least have 51percent shares in a mining company owned by a foreign company, not the current case where foreigners are the majority shareholders,” Malie said.
He continued: “The Ministry of Natural Resources has been given too many responsibilities. We believe that time has come to relieve it of some of those responsibilities. Mines in Lesotho should be governed by an independent authority made up of skilled professionals, not the government ministry.”
According to Malie, the Mining Authority would take-over from the Mining Board currently made-up of cabinet ministers. “The Mining Board is no longer effective as most powers are now with the Minister.”
Malie further said an LCD government would review the laws used to reward foreign, mining companies the rights to operate in Lesotho. “Natural resources play an important role in the economic growth of any country, and we expect the same for Lesotho. Our natural resources are contributing a very small percentage to the country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP), yet there are more diamonds found time and again; this is a shame.”
Malie also spoke about mining companies taking advantage of the “relaxed” laws of Lesotho.
“Foreign companies operating our mines are in a hurry; they want to maximise their profits when we are still asleep. We need to review the laws before it is too late because if we delay, we will be left with nothing as a country,” Malie said, adding the current government led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, had allowed matters to get out of hand. “This is not the LCD of Pakalitha Mosisili’s reign; we are going to do things in a proper way.”
The LCD deputy secretary general, Mr Tšeliso Mokhosi, on his part, told delegates the country’s natural resources should also benefit local communities.
“Companies exploiting our natural resources should also play an important role in the future of Basotho children; they should sponsor students at university level, for example. Employment of local people alone is not enough, more should be done,” said Mokhosi, further reiterating Malie’s statement that there should be transparency in how the minerals are exploited.
“The nation should be informed where and how the diamonds were sold, how much they were sold for, and how the money will be used. It was difficult to achieve this goal in the previous years because most of the powers were entrusted upon one Minister. But this will not be the case once the LCD is voted into power on May 26,” said Mokhosi.