Police foil massive protest march

MASERU — A three-day strike by textile workers failed to end with a planned massive protest march yesterday after the police cancelled its authorising permit.
The textile workers, joined in solidarity by taxi operators, disgruntled youth fighting for continued tertiary education sponsorship and other civic organisations, had planned a huge march.
But the police on Tuesday evening announced that the permit for the demonstration had been cancelled.
The announcement was made after the workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area blocked roads with stones to prevent taxis from the anti-protest association, Maseru Star Taxi Association, from driving through.
For two days, police used water cannons and teargas to disperse the striking workers who had started burning rubber wheels and throwing gabbage onto the roads.
Yesterday the police arrested Daniel Maraisane who is president of the Lesotho Congress of Democratic Unions (LECODU) and the Maseru Region Taxi Operators (MRTO) boss Mokete Jonase who were leading the strike.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said he was not aware that the two union leaders had been arrested by police.
“I am not aware that the two have been arrested. I only know of seven men who were arrested on Monday for public disorder,” Masupha said when contacted for comment last night.
The government switched off four private radio stations for the better half of yesterday amid fears that the strike could spiral into violent protests.
TK FM, Mo Afrika, Harvest FM and PC FM only resumed broadcast at around 5 pm after having spent nearly seven hours off air.
Textile workers want the minimum wage in the sector to be reviewed from the current M900 to M2 020.
Employers have however said they cannot afford such a huge salary increase.
Thousands of factory workers in Maseru, particularly in Thetsane Industrial Area, on Monday downed tools to force their employees to raise their monthly salaries.
Only a few were seen going to work while multitudes gathered next to Thetsane textile factories singing protest songs.
The workers want their employers to enroll them in a provident fund, medical aid and funeral schemes.
They want to have fully paid maternity leave.
In addition, they demand that their employers compensate them when they contract diseases at work.
Puleng Theko, an employee in one of the factories, told this paper said she was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) two years after she started working.
Doctors told Theko, a tailor in a denim producing company, that the TB could have been triggered by her work environment.
“I was told that I inhaled something bad for my lungs. I was treated for TB. I also submitted the doctors’ papers to my employees to pay me. But even up to today I have not received a cent,” said Theko.
Another worker, ‘Matebello Poulo, said she has not been compensated for injuring her finger on duty.
“I accidentally cut my finger with a pair of scissors when I was cutting a cloth. I had to pay for my medical fees. My employers said I was careless and that they would not do anything for me,” Poulo said.
She was not given sick leave after the accident, she said.
“I brought along my signed sick leave papers but they refused to accept them. I was told that I would be replaced if a stayed at home,” Poulo said.
“We are tired of being slaves,” another employee said. “They should give us more money. The M900 they are giving us is just too little. Our government should tell these people to pay us better salaries.”
A coalition of trade unions, Factory Workers Union (FAWU), Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU), United Textile Employees (UNITE) and Lesotho Security Workers Union (LSWU) garnered solidarity support from the civil society, students, transport organisations and other business committees.
For three days MRTO members withdrew their vehicles from ferrying passengers.
Government was forced to release its vehicles to take people to their destinations.
Hundreds of government vehicles were brought from all over the country to help a small fleet of the Lesotho Freight and Bus Services buses to ferry workers to and from work.
The taxi operators are demanding a 100 percent fare hike.
Tertiary students want government to increase the education sponsorship funds and to enroll all tertiary students in the sponsorship programme.
Businesses, led by the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, say government should stop foreigners from running small businesses and leave them for the locals.
The coalition said they will not stop protesting until Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili listens to their grievances.
LECODU secretary general Tšeliso Ramochela said it is high time government started making decisions that are good for the people.
Ramochela said government should review laws that regulate labour.
Bashing the government for not seriously regulating the textile industry that is dominated by Asians of Chinese origin, Ramochela said the workers are being exploited.
“Government has let the Chinese to do as they please. They abuse our people,” he said.
“Lesotho is one of the biggest garment exporters yet textile workers are the least paid. Have we completely lost our senses so much that we cannot make right decisions for our own people?”
Ramochela also said the government should allow civil servants to join unions.
“The issue of prime importance is that public servants should be able to join unions of their choice. The textile sector policy is bad. It should be reviewed.”

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20 thoughts on “Police foil massive protest march

  1. what a dilemma: on one hand M900 is not enough for basic needs, while on the other other hand M2020 will considerably increase the cost of production for factory owners. Possible results
    1. pay M2020 to workers but but cut the number by more than half.
    2. Pay M900 and create more jobs for Basotho??

    this is the dilemma faced by government. As of the case of taxi fares, that’s out of way, 100% increase for what?????? greedy ownres

  2. The factories are already benefitting from VAT exemption and whenever is charged it is at 35%,Secondly they have benefitted from hundred million subsidy(M100),The AGOA arrangement is beneffitng the said factories through capital trail,So the salary increment and Job ceation can go in par without anything hassle of losses from their side.
    Why will the PM decides to avoid dialogue with employers and employees all the time ? The country is in crisis he decided to go to Angola ? thats arrogance and irresponsibility

  3. @Tsoeu, also remember AGOA is poised to expire in 2015, therefore any increment in salaries will not be sustainable. Further, the factories were subsidized cuz they experienced losses due to the global financial crisis. As such the M2020 for 40, 000 workers is unreasonable unless some are retrenched

  4. @Jorotane, i honestly think they should negotiate and come up with a middle ground, like 20% salary increase, which will not carry a risk of massive retrenchment

  5. @leooooooooooo, even your name indicates that you are a stupid moron. Life is not about school only.You are freakin lucky that you were able to attend schol even though you are not educated.

  6. These textile workers had legitimate concerns that needs to be given urgent attention, in line with the mordern market trends and the ever rising cost of living.

    The wages that are currently afforded these workers are poverty wages that should not be ignored-these are People living in the same social-economic enviroment as all Basotho who have families to feed, house and School.

    Nevertheless, nobody except the working class can struggle and work towards the attainment of their issues being addressed. But Union leadership should not adopt tactics as in other Countries but to better read their own context and adjust accordingly so that they should not always suffer humiliating defeats in the hands of employers. The reality of Lesotho is that given the high unemployment rates and compelling poverty levels, they cannot run rolling mass action successfully as may be possible in RSA. Their situation requires short but strong interventions to make any impact. This requires calculated planning and increased advocacy-both Nationally, regionally and globally to put more pressure on the employers. Targeting at hitting the employers production over a short span of time has not worked in this country alone. This needs to be accompanied by strategically increased advocacy coupled with short successive industrial actions.

    The employers know that the workers in this country are made vulnerable by rolling mass action-given that it hits them hard on their belly. The employers similarly knows that the state will always rally behind the employers.

    The two situations mean that they are working in a challenging economic-political enviroment.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures-the self-destruction by a Tunisian vendor attracted international attention and rallied the international community behind the Tunisians.

    In Lesotho the workers need to gain the symphathy of both the army and police to make any significant impact-through shaking the foundation of the country’s very fragile democracy!

    The workers rights need to be elevated to a higher level in the forthcoming local and national elections-thus mobilsation of the opposition to win their sympathy to their course is another route that may make the gorvenment to listen!

    As elections come, let the issues of the working class in this Country be given prominence to bring down the LCD gorvenment that is not symphathetic to their course.

    Let this industrial action not just be an end in itself but a beginning towards a political revolution through the polling station!!

  7. I think it’s time the GoL shake up things a bit. They increased Gov service fees ridiculously, e.g. police clearance was M30 now M100, calculate % of this. It would also be fair for GoL to revise the minimum wage to meet the increase made on services.
    In the textile factories, a three to five year increment plan would surfice, not to say M2020 should be given as of now, that wouldn’t make business sense. We’ll end up with factories closing down if we are not realistic about issues.

  8. @BKC, u got excelent points but the unfortunate thing is da our security personnel has bad guys, who are trigger happy and dnt ve respect 4 poor fellows! Its so sad! Any country da get millitant automaticaly potrays realisation of leaders that ppl r becoming contious of their rights, which are denied by govt.

  9. @ leoooooo. oa joentsha hore o le lcd le hlooho e thata. hoja mmao o ne a sebetsa moo o ne o ke ke oa bua tjena. leatena lona le sebetsa ka likarete.

  10. it has been a long time our so called “government” playing with people’s life, we saw it coming lets fight our way to success Basotho. Batsoali ba rona khale ba sotloa ke machaena. Naha ena ke ea Basotho, Basotho ha ba fumane tseo ba li batlang. kene ke cho kare le tla o chabela.

  11. Leooo is stupid,my dear friend u should get education again cause ur not,a lot of factory workers in Lesotho have gone to school.u should go in there and see,there ar a lot of graduates in there.ur talking rubbish cause ur stupit and selfsentered,failing to look beyond the mark.shame on you man…….wait untill these workers demands ar met,u will also see that a few cents u getting now ar not enough.

  12. Trully speaking most of batho ba sebetsang lifemeng ke batho ba tsoang kantle ho maseru ba tlileng ho sebeletsa malapa a bona, babang basiile batsoali lebana, ho ea hae ke story, mohlomong M100.00 ho engoe ho khutla. You can just imagine haona le pelo ea botho hore na ele hore bona hothoe ba sebelletse. bapatala rent bonyane M150.00 transport M200.00. O ISANG HAE O SALA A JANG? LI SONO KE BA SEBETSANG MALAPENG.

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