BEDCO warns ten­ants

. . . as paras­tatal re­veals it is owed more than M4m in rental fees by busi­nesses

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

Ba­sotho En­ter­prises Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (BEDCO) Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Robert Likhang, has vowed to evict ten­ants who are not pay­ing their monthly rentals to the paras­tatal.

Mr Likhang said his or­gan­i­sa­tion is owed more than M4 mil­lion by lease­hold­ers who threaten BEDCO em­ploy­ees “with their po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions” each time they are ap­proached for pay­ment.

But ac­cord­ing to Mr Likhang, no amount of in­tim­i­da­tion is go­ing to de­ter his or­gan­i­sa­tion from ful­fill­ing its obli­ga­tion. Es­tab­lished by gov­ern­ment in 1980, BEDCO’S man­date is to help es­tab­lish and de­velop Ba­sotho-owned en­ter­prises through a num­ber of in­ter­ven­tions such as pro­vid­ing work­places at sub­sidised rent and ca­pac­ity-build­ing pro­grammes.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Mr Likhang, the cor­po­ra­tion was fail­ing to im­ple­ment some of its ini­tia­tives be­cause of the large amount of money it is owed by the ten­ants.

“In the next 14 days from to­day (5 May 2015), we are go­ing to eject 10 of the ten­ants who owe us the high­est amount of rent from our premises. some owe us more than six months in rentals and some as much as M200 000 each,” said Mr Likhang.

Mr Likhang, who is­sued the warn­ing while ad­dress­ing some of the ten­ants at BEDCO’S Se­baboleng of­fices on Tues­day, said the rea­son the cor­po­ra­tion was fail­ing to re­fur­bish its build­ings was due to the de­fault­ing oc­cu­pants.

The ten­ants, who are oc­cu­py­ing BEDCO’S Se­baboleng and Trad­ing Cen­tre build­ings in Maseru, had com­plained that their premises were now di­lap­i­dated, yet the rental fee con­tin­ued to in­crease.

the lessees then re­quested a 10-per­cent re­duc­tion in the rent due to the derelict state of the build­ings which they in­sisted BEDCO never both­ered to main­tain.

Mathew Thamae, who was rep­re­sent­ing the ten­ants, said BEDCO was sup­posed to help Ba­sotho busi­nesses but ap­peared to be do­ing the op­po­site.

“We con­tinue to wres­tle with the prob­lem of old build­ings that are never re­paired. Our busi­nesses also suf­fer as a re­sult of lack of util­i­ties at th­ese fa­cil­i­ties whose rent is now higher than what is be­ing charged at some newer build­ings in the Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict.

“We would also want to un­der­stand the role of BEDCO be­cause we have never re­ceived any as­sis­tance from you, be it fi­nan­cial or oth­er­wise. When we vis­ited the CEO’S of­fices, we learnt that the agency is as­sist­ing a lot of busi­nesses, so the ques­tion is why haven’t we ben­e­fit­ted as BEDCO ten­ants?” asked Mr thamae.

Mr Thamae also noted for­eignowned busi­nesses were flour­ish­ing while those owned by Ba­sotho strug­gled be­cause they were not get­ting the nec­es­sary as­sis­tance from the or­gan­i­sa­tion cre­ated specif­i­cally to help them, which is BEDCO.

’Ma­muso Nt­lama, who is also one of BEDCO’S ten­ants, sup­ported Mr Thamae’s sen­ti­ments, adding she was “re­cently shocked” to learn that gov­ern­ment was pro­vid­ing “some big man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies” fac­tory shells free of charge.

Ms Nt­lama added: “For­eignowned com­pa­nies are do­ing ex­tremely well while our gov­ern­ment is not as­sist­ing us, lo­cal busi­nesses, in any way. I had ex­pected to be given some guid­ance by BEDCO in the four years I have been a ten­ant at its premises, but we never got any as­sis­tance from the cor­po­ra­tion’s in­cu­ba­tion pro­gramme.

“We are fail­ing to pay rent sim­ply be­cause our busi­nesses are not do­ing well. We need BEDCO’S as­sis­tance to help us sur­vive and not for you to close our busi­nesses.”

How­ever, in re­sponse, Mr Likhang said there was no way the ten­ants could be ex­empt­edmpted from pay­ing rent if BEDCO is to sur­vive, and also noted the rea­son son why the cor­po­ra­tion has not bee­nen re­fur­bish­ing its build­ings was dueue to the de­fault­ing lease­hold­ers.

“We have very rich busi­ness­esusi­nesses op­er­at­ing from our premises ses but their own­ers bla­tantly refuse e to pay the rent they owe us. What t are we sup­posed to do when a sin­gle­gle busi­ness owes us rentals in ex­cessess of M200 000 and its owner re­fuses ses to pay?

“We have also been threat­ened by min­is­ters that we arere giv­ing their peo­ple prob­lems when we de­mand this rent. But let me as­sure you that th­ese arere but empty threats which willill not stop us from do­ing ou­rur job. As we speak, we have evicted about 10 busi­nesses fro­mom our premises and will be ex­pelling 10 more over the next two weeks as I have al­ready men­tioned ,” said d Mr Likhang.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Likhang,ang, BEDCO had fi­nan­cial obli­ga­bli­ga­tions to meet, such as pay­ing tax to the Le­sotho Rev­enuev­enue Author­ity (LRA), hence the need for the ten­ants to set­tle their eir bills.

“The same gov­ern­ment that is used to threaten us when we try to evict de­fault­ing ten­ants is also pres­suris­ing us to im­ple­ment, to the let­ter, BEDCO’S man­date, which is the in­cu­ba­tion of small busi­nesses. But how can we achieve this with­out fund­ing?

“I ap­pear be­fore Par­lia­ment’s Public Ac­counts Com­mit­tee on a regular ba­sis and get grilled over our fail­ure to col­lect rent from you. We find our­selves pay- in g money to the LRA on be­half of th­ese de­fault­ing ten­ants.

“The LRA has asked us to give proof that we have evicted th­ese de­fault­ing ten­ants and there would be a re­duc­tion in the taxes we pay, hence the de­ci­sion to ex­pel them.

“Again when LRA of­fi­cials come to you for tax, you don’t make any ex­cuses the way you do when we ask for our rent. That’s why we are say­ing you ei­ther pay up or leave our premises as we can­not con­tinue to have this state of af­fairs,” said Mr Likhang.

BEDCO, he added, had re­quested M6mil­lion from gov­ern­ment in the 2015/2016 na­tional bud­get, in or­der to ful­fil its obligations.

“This M6mil­lion is go­ing to go a long way to­wards ad­dress­ing our in­fra­struc­ture-main­te­nance needs and even re­sus­ci­tat­ing some of our fa­cil­i­ties as in­cu­ba­tion cen­tres for

busi­nesses,” said Mr Likhang.

BEDCO CEO Robert Likhang.

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