By Majara Molupe
THE closure of P & T garment factory has aggravated the unemployment crisis in Mafeteng district.
Media reports have put the number of people who lost their jobs after the factory closure at 2 400.
I think the figure is much higher than that.
That figure must certainly exclude the temporary employees who numbered into hundreds every given month.
There is a sombre mood in Mafeteng following the factory closure.
Some of the workers had managed to build houses using the money they earned from their jobs.
Others had used their secure jobs to get loans from banks to build houses and improve their lives.
How are these people going to repay their loans?
The plight of taxi drivers who used to ferry workers to the factories is just unbearable.
Their exasperation is clearly visible when one visits Mafeteng.
And the itinerant tradesmen who used to sell goodies to the factory workers are also facing sure poverty.
Their lives are now desperate as well.
Mafeteng is a crime-riddled and drought-stricken district which experiences perennial poor harvests.
The closure of the factory will surely add to the people’s misery.
The latest blow has added salt to the wound, if I can use the often-quoted adage.
Workers say they had been given a raw deal after they were given a very short notice of the factory’s closure.
As a result, the workers say, they will find it difficult to pay school fees for their children and settle their other outstanding accounts.
In my opinion, the factory closure could lead to a higher dropout rate in schools and tertiary institutions.
How are the Mafeteng residents going to deal with this crisis?
It is true that some of the workers for P & T factory came from as far as Qacha’s Neck and some of them will not go back to their homes in the faint hope that they will secure other jobs elsewhere.
But when such hopes are not fulfilled, there is a danger that some of the female workers will resort to the only trade they can resort to for survival – prostitution.
This will unfortunately increase the prevalence of HIV/Aids in Mafeteng district.
Others will be forced to resort to crime to make ends meet.
This, in my humble opinion, is highly undesirable.
P & T had made a real difference in the lives of the people of Mafeteng during its short existence. But all the efforts appear to have been brought to nothing after the factory shut its doors last month.
The closure of the factory has come at a particularly bad time for Basotho who are also being hounded out of neighbouring South Africa.
South Africa has recently deported Basotho migrant workers who are not in possession of valid work permits.
There are reports that South Africa wants to clean up all the illegal immigrants ahead of the football World Cup tournament which kicks off in June.
The idea is to ensure that tourists who come for the World Cup are safe.
But the reality of the situation is that Basotho are grappling with a serious problem of unemployment and other social problems such as poverty.
There are just no adequate jobs for Basotho.
It is a tragedy that the few companies that we have are closing shop while others are on the brink of collapse.
The government must therefore intervene to save companies that are facing collapse.
If it fails to do so, we could all face a bleak future indeed.