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Nationwide stay-away cancelled

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — A nationwide strike scheduled for yesterday was cancelled on Tuesday after the government pledged to look into the coalition’s grievances.

The strike was being spearheaded by a coalition of trade unions, students and opposition political parties.

The coalition wanted Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to dismiss ministers of education, public service, home affairs and transport whom they said were incompetent.

They also wanted the government to allow taxi operators to increase fares by 100 percent.

Students wanted the government to increase the education sponsorship at tertiary institutions.

But the strike was averted on Monday night after Forestry Minister Kabelo Mafura and protest organisers signed a memorandum of understanding.

The agreement was signed under the chairmanship of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN).

Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) president, Ramohapi Shale, who was among the strike organisers, told a press conference on Tuesday that they had decided to suspend the stay-away after the government pledged to look into their grievances.

“We chose to suspend the stay-away and the protest march because the government has signed a memorandum of understanding with us and we have agreed to negotiate,” Shale said.

A senior officer with the LCN, ’Mathethiwe Tšita, said they were approached late last year to help push for talks with the government.

“We were approached by the coalition on November 22 asking us to join the push for the government to listen to them and we suggested that negotiations should be given a chance,” Tšita said.

“The government has never approached us,” she said.

But sources said the timing of the signing of the memo randum of understanding raised questions as it came during the same week that the government of Mosisili was going through turbulent times.

Mosisili last week fired three government ministers in a move that snowballed into a crisis for his government after MPs moved a motion of no-confidence in his administration.

The motion was however withdrawn yesterday after Mothetjoa Metsing declined the opposition’s nomination for him to serve as prime minister.

Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla however denied that the government had influenced the decision by the coalition to suspend the strike.

“We all agreed that there is no longer a need to go to the streets because the government has opened doors for negotiations,” Lehohla said.

“We have always supported talks and it is a good thing that the coalition sees no reason to call a stay-away. No government needs a stay-away.”

But it appears as if not everyone within the coalition was supportive of the idea to suspend the stay-away.

The coalition’s chairperson, Mokete Jonas, told a press conference that he did not have much to say because “all I wanted was the march”.

Sources said a faction loyal to Mosisili had lobbied heavily to have the strike suspended fearing it could add to the political uncertainty prevailing in the country.

The sources said the government was worried that disgruntled elements could use the protest march to destabilise the government.

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