MASERU — The Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) lost its right to receive funding from government because it no longer represents all trade associations, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said on Friday.
Up until 2009, the 35-year-old LCCI had been collecting 20 percent of revenue from businesses that registered or renewed their licences with the trade ministry because the government regarded it as a body representing enterprises countrywide.
But Mosisili told parliament on Friday that it was unfair for the LCCI to want to continue receiving 20 percent of licence fees while other associations of equal standing had come on board and were not given any money.
“Today industry has grown and widened and there are many business associations and therefore LCCI no longer represents all businesses,” Mosisili said.
The LCCI used to receive about M500 000 annually but since last year the money is now being given to the Private Sector Foundation “which represents all trade associations”.
Mosisili was responding to the LCCI’s petition that he should reverse the decision to deprive it of funds.
The government stopped remitting funds to the LCCI last year after many businesses defected to form rival associations.
One such association was Mohloli Chamber of Commerce which became popular through advertisements and advocacy on local radio stations.
The LCCI’s petition was part of appeals sent to Mosisili’s office during a protest march last month by groups of taxi operators, trade unions, concerned youth organisations, and the Voice of the Voiceless.
LCCI president Ntaote Seboka signed the petition to Mosisili last month asking him to reverse the decision to withhold fees previously forwarded to the organisation.
But Mosisili has instead called on the LCCI and other similar associations to join the Private Sector Foundation to access funding.
“The LCCI was one of the associations that were invited to the talks in preparation for the establishment of the Business Council of Lesotho and the Private Sector Foundation,” Mosisili said.
“The 20 percent collected from the licence fees is now given to the umbrella body of all Lesotho businesses, the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho, for it to run the affairs of Lesotho businesses,” he said.
“The LCCI is making itself miserable by keeping itself detached from talks between traders and the government.
“We cannot cry for someone who caused himself problems,” Mosisili said.
Since 2009 the LCCI bosses have been fighting over the registration of a company called LCCI Investment Holding which some suspected was meant to make members believe it belonged to the association when it was owned by individuals.
The Lesotho Times could not independently find the details of the LCCI Investment Holding but it however established that one of the top brass held 360 shares out of 1 000.
The other shares were held by two other high ranking officials of the association.
The LCCI bosses also spent time fighting over the composition of Security Lesotho, a subsidiary company of the LCCI.
While the LCCI was preoccupied with infighting and its leaders suing each other in the courts of law, disgruntled enterprises defected and formed associations that established the Private Sector Foundation.
The Lesotho Times understands that while squabbles intensified within the LCCI some members deemed it irrelevant to their business needs.
Other members expressed shock at their removal from the board without their knowledge with board minutes showing that they resigned at a meeting “we did not attend”.
This paper has seen a legal document at the registrar general’s office showing that six members had resigned.
But after confronting the remaining bosses another form was filed at the Law Office showing the resignation of other members.
Last year the then LCCI boss Simon Phafane was hauled before the courts after he allegedly fired the executive secretary, Lebeko Notši, and locked the offices so that other association leaders could not enter.
Seboka was elected to lead the organisation earlier this year amid opposition from other leaders who were bitterly complaining that the elective conference was illegal.