By ‘Mantoetse Maama
MASERU — Fifty-one Basotho men and women who have been working in South Africa illegally have been deported back to Lesotho.
Most of the deportees said they were caught on the South African side of the Maseru border gate after failing to produce their passports while others said they were caught in Ladybrand.
One of the deportees, who said she is a domestic worker in South Africa but refused to be identified, told the Lesotho Times her passport has expired and she had applied for its replacement in December last year.
“On Friday when I arrived at the border I could not produce my passport because I don’t have it. I thought I could bribe South African Home Affairs officials at the borders but they were very strict.
“They did not want to listen to my explanation. We were asked to stay in one of the offices and later they took us to a cell in Clocolan where we slept on the floor. The blankets were very dirty and smelly while the food was terrible,” she said.
She said they appeared before the Ladybrand magistrate court where they were fined M200 each and before being deported.
“I had applied for a passport in December 2011 but until today they have not released it. I have struggled to get a job in Lesotho for years and I have to support my mother and siblings,” she said.
She added that even if she got the same job in Lesotho, the wages are far too low compared to South Africa where she said she earns M3 000 per month, far more than the M500 domestic workers are paid here.
“We hope the government will speed up their process of producing passports,” she said.
Another male deportee said police had stopped a taxi from Johannesburg in which he had been a passenger in Ladybrand on Saturday morning.
“When police stopped the taxi they asked for passports. A police van was parked behind the taxi and those who did not have passports or had over stayed were told to go into the police van,” the man said.
“I was fined M300 and released. I am just happy that they released me and deported me as I am the bread winner for my family.
“Though I don’t have a valid passport I am still going to find my way back to South Africa as I cannot quit my job. My relatives can not suffer while I am still alive. I will do whatever it takes to go back,” he said.