SA firm accused of sidelining locals

MASERU — Unemployed construction workers have accused a top South African construction company of hiring foreigners while sideling locals to work at the new Maseru Mall site.

The new mall is being built near the Pope John Paul II monument behind the police training college in Maseru by Group 5.

The desperate job seekers told the Lesotho Times that although they wake up early to queue outside the construction site their hopes of getting hired were slim as the company preferred foreigners.

They alleged those being hired did not have any special skills that the locals do not have.

They said the foreign workers who were being hired included bricklayers, cement mixers and other non-professional jobs.

Most of the immigrants who had been hired, they alleged, were from South Africa and Zimbabwe.

They also alleged that the foreman in charge of hiring staff was a Zimbabwean who preferred to hire his fellow countrymen than locals.

One of the job seekers who only identified himself as Benjamin said he was offended when the foreman hired foreign bricklayers despite that there were scores of locals who were competent enough to do the job.

“I am aware that these foreigners do not have exceptional skills that are not available in the country and therefore I doubt that they have valid work permits,” Benjamin said.

“I bet many of the men waiting to be employed here are far more educated and experienced than those foreigners.”

But a Zimbabwean national, Obed Mupindu, who came to Lesotho under a sub-contract through his construction firm, said his company had tested many locals who were claiming to be bricklayers and had found that most of them were not up to scratch.

The Zimbabwean said out of 30 Basotho who claimed to be bricklayers only three could handle bricks properly but could still not build.

“These men claim to know how to build but when I tested them I found that the majority of them could not even handle a brick properly,” Mupindu said.

“It is true that some of them hold college certificates but they lack experience.

“I had no option but to resort to recruiting people who can build.”

He however insisted that his company had recruited 27 locals to work on the construction site.

He however denied revealing the number of expatriates he had hired to work on the site.

The Group 5 management declined to comment saying it was the property developer, Ellis Properties, which could talk to the press.

The site overseer for Ellis Properties, David Nkalati, said he was working on the issue with the labour department.

“I cannot confirm or deny that foreigners are hired instead of Basotho at the construction site but the job seekers’ concerns have been brought to our attention,” Nkalati said.

“We are working with the Ministry of Labour to deal with the matter.”

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