Macaefa Billy dies
Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) leader, Macaefa Billy, passed away yesterday at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
Billy (56) died after a long illness and is survived by one daughter and two sons.
Born in Ha Tebelo village, Matelile town in Mafeteng district, Billy was a champion of workers’ rights, which led to his decision to form the LWP in 2002.
He became a Member of Parliament the same year following the introduction of Proportional Representation (PR) in the legislature, and would always ensure the workers’ voice was heard in the August House.
In 2007, the LWP entered into an alliance with the All Basotho Convention (ABC), which resulted in Billy being elected the party’s secretary general. Billy however, remained LWP leader while also serving as secretary general of the Factory Workers’ Union (FAWU).
However, after disagreements with ABC leader Thomas Thabane, Billy left the party but remained with the LWP and in the leadership of various workers’ associations.
After attending Lehahaneng Primary and then Makena High and Bereng High School in Mafeteng, Billy left the country to work in the South African mines, marking the beginning of his political career and unionism.
According to Daniel Maraisane, a long-time ally of Billy, the late LWP leader was among the first members of South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)when it was formed in 1982.
“At the Free State Saiplaas Gold Mine where he worked, Billy was part of the NUM leadership. And when NUM formed a Department of Education dealing with labour rights, Macaefa served in the union’s Free State Region committee, of which I was chairman.
“Billy was also a prominent member of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), and attended many meetings in which workers’ rights were discussed.
“In short, Billy was a heavyweight of the National Union of Mineworkers in the Free State , hence his deportation back to Lesotho in 1987 following a protracted strike organised by the NUM.
“In fact, the South Africans decided to fire all the foreigners who had led the strike, resulting in Billy being deported together with 25 other leaders.
“I was part of that group deported from South Africa. But following the deportation, the union started a project here in Lesotho to help the fired mineworkers. The project was called the Mine Workers Development Agency and was based in Sekamaneng. The former miners raised chickens and also had many other projects. Macaefa served in the leadership of the agency, alongside myself, Tseliso Hlalele, Justice Sello Tsukulu and Emmanuel Masita.
“We negotiated for those fields in Sekamaneng for the project, which exists to this day. Billy would travel to South Africa to collect funding for the project but because he was banned in that country, he did so at great risk and would hide the money in his jacket.
“Just imagine in the mid-1980s, having to travel wearing a jacket full of M40 000.00 all the way from South Africa into Lesotho!” said Mr Maraisane.
According to Mr Maraisane, Mr Billy started his unionism in Lesotho when he formed the Construction and Allied Workers Union of Lesotho (CAWULE) in 1989, which targeted disgruntled Lesotho Highlands Water Project employees.
“CAWULE had Tsukulu as secretary general, with Macaefa being the president. Later, Macaefa went to Brussels to further his knowledge about workers’ rights and how best to represent them,” said Maraisane.
After the Lesotho Amalgamated Textile Clothing Union collapsed, Tseliso Ramochela formed the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU) and appointed Billy secretary general in 1994, Maraisane added.
“Billy was among union representatives who participated in drafting the Lesotho Labour Code Order of 1992, which continues to be used today. He formed the LWP while still serving in LECAWU. In short, Billy was a champion for workers’ rights and felt deeply for their welfare.”