Lesotho Times

Chinese must do more to repair their reputation

THE downing of tools by
workers at a sandstone company in Berea last week has helped expose the serious
inequalities and exploitative relationships that exist between workers and
barons in the construction industry.

It
has also helped unearth the rot within that industry.

Workers
at the Lesotho Sandstone Enterprises have accused management of paying them
ridiculous wages that they said were way below the minimum wage.

They
complained about being made to work without protective clothing such as
gumboots, gloves and work-suits.

For
all their hard work they were being paid at a measly rate of 25 lisente per
brick and as low as eight lisente for a face-brick.

To
say we were shocked by such pathetic rates would be an understatement.

We
are still in shock as to how management at the sandstone company expects
breadwinners to live on such low wages.

In
the absence of a strong workers union to fight and defend their rights these
workers are set to continue suffering in silence.

But
surely something must be done on their behalf.

Ordinarily
we would have expected officers from the department of labour to spring into
action and check what is going on.

We
are not aware of such action.

The
fact that such practices have been allowed to go on for years raises serious
questions about department’s commitment to uplifting the conditions of service
for workers at the bottom of the social strata.

The
department’s lethargic response to the cries of workers in Berea leaves us in
no doubt that it does not give a hoot about the suffering of workers in the
sweat-shops in the construction sector.

It
must do more to convince us that it cares.

The
department must intervene decisively in the construction sector and have the
guts to enforce the payment of a living wage.

Labour
Minister ’Maphoka Motoboli is by most accounts an affable character.

But
following our story last week the least that we expected was a statement from
her office in sympathy with these God-forsaken workers.

We
thought governments are by and large there to protect the interests of the weak
and the vulnerable.

We
also note with concern that the company at the centre of the controversy is
said to be Chinese-owned.

We
have nothing against the Chinese. In fact we acknowledge the critical role they
have played in promoting development in Lesotho.

The
government of China has been a true and loyal partner for development in
Lesotho.

But
we must hasten to state that as individuals the Chinese in Lesotho must do more
to repair decades of misconception and negative attitudes that they have allowed
to fester.

We
cannot ignore that some of China’s nationals living in Lesotho have built a
notorious reputation in the manner they conduct business.

Chinese
goods sold in sprawling markets in Maseru are often held up as examples of
shoddy work.

Chinese
managers are often seen as brutal slave drivers in a relentless push for
profits.

Chinese-run
supermarkets are said to be selling food-stuffs well past their sell-by date.

Basotho
also complain that the Chinese are driving them out of business by setting up
small businesses in the villages.

These
are legitimate complaints.

The
Chinese nationals living in Lesotho must respond to these concerns.

Unless
they do so we risk having social disharmony and a return to the dark days of
1991 when angry Basotho razed down Indian and Chinese businesses in Maseru and
drove them away following the sad events at what is now the Manthabiseng
Convention Centre.

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

Contact us today: News: editor@lestimes.co.ls Advertising: marketing@lestimes.co.ls Telephone: +266 2231 5356

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