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Group challenges maize-meal price hike

THE Christian Advocates and Ambassadors Association has asked the Constitutional Court to declare the recent increase in the price of maize and wheat products a violation of human rights. The association filed the application in the court yesterday.

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The application comes after the Lesotho Flour Mills this week increased maize and wheat products by 15 percent, citing the El-Nino induced drought.

Last Friday Advocate Fusi Sehapi, who is one of the leaders of the Christian Advocate and Association had threatened to sue the Lesotho Flour Mills if they go ahead and bump maize and wheat prices.

The association seeks a constitutional declaration that the milling company’s decision “of unilaterally raising the maize meal (food) prices at the rate of 15% without consulting” the general public should reviewed and set aside as irregular.

It also seeks a declarator that the abrupt increase of food prices by 15 percent violates people’s right to food.

The association says people have a right to life, dignity and good health.

It asks the court to declare that the abrupt rise of food prices by 15 percent is unfair, excessive and unreasonable in light of the prevailing poverty in the country, citizens’ and country’s less development and available resources.

It also asks for a declarator that the government and must fairly, reasonably and progressively burden the socio-economic needs of the citizens in a manner proportionate to the countries’ development and available resources.

It asks that the government be directed to provide food to its members and the general public and/or subsidise the cost of maize-meal prices insofar as can reasonably be done.

The association asks the court to direct that the government should report back to it via affidavits and/or its legal representatives after every month as to the extent of its compliance with the orders to be issued.

Advocate Mpeli Mohlabula, in a certificate of urgency, said the Lesotho Flour Mills had arbitrarily raised the prices of Basotho staple food papa (pap), manufactured from maize-meal, by 15 percent.
He said the increase would deny both employed and unemployed Basotho the right of access to shops to buy food at reasonable and affordable prices as contemplated by section 18 (7) of the Lesotho Constitution 1993.

“The rise of 15% is unprecedented in the entire history of Lesotho,” Advocate Mohlabula said.

“This hike come at the material time when the country is labouring under poverty, unemployment and zero percent (0%) salary increments to those who are employed inter alia,” he said.

“This hike is in direct conflict to the current government’s manifesto of prosperity (moruo) and inflation basic laws which dictate that in order to raise the prices of food the salaries must also be proportionally increased.”

He said the government has failed to respond to the increased food prices in violation to the dictates of democratic rule entrenched in the constitution.

The lawyer said Section 1 of the constitution binds the government to be open, accountable and responsive to its people’s needs and its own manifestos.

He said the right to food is a justiciable right incorporated under sections 5, 8 and 27 of the constitution, which guarantee all citizens to live a healthy and dignified life.

“This right also augurs well with the current government’s manifesto of prosperity,” he said.

“Food is an everyday basic necessity and indispensable component of life. The violation of the right to life is urgent by operation of law.”

“Consequently, lack of access to food is an urgent need calling for urgent court intervention.”

Staff Reporter

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