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Govt fooling people with promises of lucrative mining ventures: Maqelepo

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Bongiwe Zihlangu

BASOTHO Action Party (BAP) deputy leader, Motlatsi Maqelepo has accused the governing parties of fooling people with false promises that they would soon be empowered to become small-scale diamond miners in Koalabata, Berea.

Addressing about 1500 BAP supporters in Koalabata this week, Mr Maqelepo said such promises were misleading because there had not been any comprehensive prospecting in the area to determine if there were significant deposits to support lucrative mining ventures.

The former Health minister accused Mining Minister and Democratic Congress (DC) spokesperson, Serialong Qoo, of “pulling wool over people’s eyes” ahead of next month’s elections.

He accused Mr Qoo of making promises that they would soon be opening diamond mines in Koalabata when no prospecting had ever been conducted to the area.

He said he had first appealed to then Mining Minister and All Basotho Convention (ABC) stalwart, Keketso Sello, in 2017 to conduct prospecting to establish if there were any significant diamond deposits in the area. He said he subsequently appealed to Mr Qoo when the latter took over as minister. However, the two had ignored his pleas, he said.

“I appealed to the two ministers calling for prospecting to be done in the area but they shut the door in my face. All of sudden the government is claiming a mine will be opened in the area,” Mr Maqelepo said.

“Successive congress and ABC governments have left a bad legacy. I’m surprised to see the government coming to this area now saying that they will establish diamond mines in Koalabata.

“Please don’t be fooled by their lies. If there will be a mine, it will be opened by (BAP leader) Professor (Nqosa) Mahao when he becomes prime minister after next month’s elections.

“I call on you people of Mabote, Khubetsoana, Motimposo and Mokhethoaneng constituencies to be vigilant. We’ve been working hard to rid ourselves of problems created by congress governments since 2007 and we’re still on that journey. We are yet to attain the freedom we have been seeking,” he added.

Mr Maqelepo served as cabinet minister in the current governing coalition until his dismissal in April 2021 along with Prof Mahao and others who had had dumped the ABC to form the BAP.

He said unlike other politicians who were “selfish”, Prof Mahao had the interests of Basotho at heart. It was therefore wise to elect him because the rest of the politicians were “cut from the same cloth”, he added.

Asked to comment on Mr Maqelepo’s claims, Mr Qoo confirmed that the latter had indeed approached him on several occasions calling for diamond prospecting in Koalabata.

“He (Maqelepo) used to pester me but I turned him down because he was serving his own interests and not those of the people. There was no way I could have entertained him because I could already tell that he was on his way out of government,” Mr Qoo said.

He however, dismissed Mr Maqelepo’s claims that they were selling people ‘hot air’ with their promises. He said prospecting had been done in the area and small-scale mining could be successfully conducted.

“Prospecting has been done already. In the past, there were people mining diamonds in the area but they stopped for reasons best known to themselves.

“We are already hard at work allocating places for people to mine. Maqelepo is panicking because he realises that the government is helping Basotho to go into mining and they have embraced the initiative. His behaviour shows that he does not like Basotho. I already have engineers and equipment in place for work to begin,” Mr Qoo said.

He claimed that Mr Maqelepo wanted mining concessions to be given to an unnamed South African company which he allegedly held shares in.

He said his party had plans to open mines in Berea, Mafeteng and Leribe as part of its quest to empower Basotho to be players in the lucrative industry.

“As government, we came up with this initiative to empower our people. Although they had been mining diamonds for decades, they could not do it openly because it was illegal for them to deal in precious stones.

“Maqelepo is merely trying to create an impression that he is advocating for the people’s empowerment when his real motive is to empower foreigners so that they can employ Basotho,” Mr Qoo said.