Expired food quandary

FamCast News
5 months ago

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By Neo Kolane

Villagers in Mount Moorosi in Quthing district have accused government authorities of failing to act against a chain of supermarkets owned by a Chinese businessman, that sell unwholesome food stuffs, thereby putting their lives at risk.

The villagers say they are now in a quandary after unsuccessfully trying to engage the health and trade ministries to rein in the businessman, who has been operating in the area since 2016.

In separate interviews this week, the consumers alleged it was possible that the crooked businessman was bribing inspectors to turn a blind eye to his ‘evil’ operations.

Some blamed the District Administrator (DA), ‘Mapaseka Khesa, for failing to effectively oversee inspections on businesses in the area.

They claimed that last year Khesa promised to take up the matter with the relevant offices but nothing has materialised since then.

The disgruntled consumers further alleged that Chinese supermarkets which are mushrooming in the area often sell expired and rotten food to unsuspecting customers. They said this was the case during the festive season, after small shops owned by local businesses ran out of food and other essentials.

Area chief, Masheane Maoeng said that Chinese business people have taken over the running of supermarkets in Mount Moorosi, which should be a preserve of indigenous Basotho.

According to the Business Licensing and Registration Regulations legal notice of 2020, 47 activities are reserved for indigenous Basotho. These include transport; cleaning; repairing and retail motors sales; growing and selling fruits and vegetables; pharmaceutical wholesaling and retailing; real estate; retail of animal feeds; supply of fuel and retail of hardware.

Maoeng said the villagers’ plight has worsened following the death of two Basotho business owners, Bokang Mohlabula and Joel Hlalele, during the past year.

He claimed that the Chinese businesses give out expired food as freebies when a customer buys groceries worth M400 and above.

The businessman, identified only as Mr Li, was not available for comment this week.

A local businessman, Kabi Thulo, told this publication that the matter was reported to Chief Maoeng who called officials from the ministry of trade and it was found that the Chinese-owned supermarkets’ licenses had expired.

Thulo noted that they later went to the DA’s office who visited Mount Moorosi and confirmed this.

He added that Khesa later came with officials from the ministry of local government, home affairs and police, trade and industry, as well as health.

“The officials from the ministry of local government, home affairs & police and trade inspected the premises and found out that everything was now in order. However, the health official did not, citing that they do not have the supermarkets on their list,” Thulo said.

According to Thulo, the buck stops with Khesa as the matter had been left in her hands as DA.

Quthing district environmental health inspector, Relebohile Koenene told theReporter this week that initially when they received the consumers’ complaints in September last year, the DA and the District Commissioner of Police (DISPOL) rushed to the supermarkets but no health inspection was conducted.

Koenene said he joined the two authorities a few days later but no inspection was made after he discovered that the business was not registered on the ministry’s data base. It therefore, did not have a health certificate.

He further pointed out that he then asked the DISPOL and DA Khesa to intervene as the matter was best resolved at district level.

‘I’m still waiting for feedback from the two offices since we sought their assistance in dealing with the matter,” he indicated.

On her part, Khesa said she was aware of the consumers’ complaints that the businessman was in the habit of selling expired food.

Khesa said her office visited Mount Moorosi to inspect the supermarkets in a bid to address the matter. She also instructed that such inspections should be done routinely.

Khesa further noted that during the team’s visit the Chinese businessman took some rotten and expired food stuffs and threw them away.

“We also checked whether the foreign business people are in the country illegally and whether their business licensing is still valid,” she said.

However, no health inspection was done, she acknowledged, citing the official “had a problem which he could not disclose”.

Khesa said she had expected that from time to time there would be regular inspections, further assuring that she would call for a meeting if there has not been such action.

The public relations officer of the ministry of trade and industry, ‘Mantletse Maile, confirmed that the Mt Moorosi community had reported the matter to the ministry’s offices in the district, which responded by dispatching a team of officials to investigate.

Maile said the ministry of trade and industry’s One-stop Business Facilitation Office (OBFC) Director, Monaheng Monaheng, informed the villagers during protests against the foreign traders, that his office does not conduct health inspections as that is not their mandate.

“Hence a joint inspection was requested but allegedly, the officer from the health department in the district had no interest to do joint inspections with the department of trade.

“Our role was to inspect the issue of business licenses which at that time were expired. However, a follow up was done and we discovered that they had been renewed,” she added.

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