Mohalenyane Phakela/ Moorosi Tsiane
THE police, nurses and teachers’ planned protest march to force the government to award them a massive 25 percent wage hike for the 2022/23 financial year might not happen after all.
This is after High Court Judge, Molefi Makara, ordered the civil servants and the government to go back to the drawing board and negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
Justice Makara gave the order on Tuesday after the civil servants, who have coalesced under the umbrella of the Coalition of Lesotho Public Employees (COLEPE), petitioned the Constitutional Court to order Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli to grant them permission to stage a protest march against the government.
COLEPE is made up of the Lesotho Public Service Association (LEPSA), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU), Lesotho Principals Association (LPA), Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA), Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Nurses Association LNA and the Qiloane Nursing Assistants Association (QINUSA).
They had planned to march from Setsoto Stadium to parliament to submit a petition on their demands for a 25 percent salary hike to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu and National Assembly Speaker, Sephiri Motanyane.
The demonstration had initially been set for 17 March 2022 but failed to proceed after the civil servants were denied permission by the Maseru police. The police refused to grant them permission on the grounds that the Public Health (COVID-19) (Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures) (No.5) (Amendment of Schedule) Regulation, 2022 did not allow anyone to hold demonstrations.
Unhappy with the police’s decision, the civil servants then approached Police and Public Safety Minister Lepota Sekola.
Over the weekend, LAT secretary general, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, had said the protest march had finally been given the greenlight to proceed by Minister Sekola. All that was left was for the necessary paperwork to be completed before they could march.
But no such paperwork had been finalised on Monday, prompting the civil servants to launch their court application to force the police commissioner and minister’s hand.
Commissioner Molibeli, Messrs Sekola, Motanyane, Mokhothu, Finance Minister Sophonea Shale, Law and Justice Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane, Public Service Minister Keketso Sello and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the respondents.
The two parties appeared before Justice Makara on Tuesday and he ordered them to engage and negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
Justice Makara held the proceedings at his Florida home in Maseru due to the ongoing power cut at the High Court.
Advocates Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela and Mafefoane Moshoeshoe appeared on behalf of COLEPE and the government respectively.
Adv Sekonyela confirmed that they had been ordered by the judge to negotiate with the government.
“We appeared before Justice Makara at his home on Tuesday and it emerged that the government was willing to negotiate,” Adv Sekonyela said.
“It was then agreed that we should try to find common ground with the government and report back to the judge when electricity has been restored at the court,” he added.
Even if they negotiate, it is highly unlikely that the government will give in to the demands for a seemingly unaffordable 25 percent pay hike.
The government has been repeatedly exhorted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to curb its spending including reducing the public wage bill.