The mad season of protests

The mad season of protests

MASERU – ALL is not well in Lesotho.
The country has been besmirched by protest marches that are marked by violent clashes between protesters and the authorities.
Now even children are taking to the streets, smashing cars, destroying buildings and killing animals.

In the past three weeks, teachers have gone on strike, textile workers are vigorously pushing for a wage hike and children have caused havoc at schools.
Protests by students at Mapoteng and Ribaneng High schools resulted in school property being destroyed.
The stone throwing students were protesting against the refusal by striking teachers to teach.

This comes after the three teachers unions the Lesotho Teachers’ Trade Union (LTTU), Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) and the Lesotho Principals Association (LESPA) went on a go slow to press for a salary increment and improved working conditions.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said students in Ribaneng went on strike on Thursday last week.
The students who were throwing stones destroyed the staff room and some classrooms.
“Twenty-six students were arrested on the same day and then later released to their parents because they are minors,” Superintendent Mopeli said.
Superintendent Mopeli said police are conducting further investigations.

He said in Mapoteng students destroyed school furniture, computers and then slaughtered the school’s cow without permission.
He said the last time he checked no arrests had been made.

The Mapoteng students also marched to the nearby Dahon High School and destroyed property.
He appealed to people who want to embark on protests to avoid violence.
The LTTU, LAT and LESPA issued a joint statement saying they were aware of the incidents that occurred at Ribaneng, Mapoteng and Dahon High schools.
The unions condemned the violent incidents.

They also pleaded with the Minister of Education Professor Ntoi Rapapa to “avoid statements that will add petrol to the flames”.
Teachers resolved to go on a month-long nationwide strike with effect from August 2 and vowed to continue with the action until the government responds to their demands.
They want the government to pay them salary arrears on their performance-based contracts dating back to 2009.
They also want the government to pay salaries that are commensurate with their academic and professional qualifications as well as weed out ghost workers from the
payroll.

One of their demands is that Minister Rapapa should fire the Chief Executive Officer of the Teaching Service Department, ’Maselloane Sehlabi, whom they accuse of maladministration and being a stumbling block in the negotiations between them and the government.
Rapapa told them that their strike was illegal.

He however said that the government was doing everything in its power to address the teachers’ grievances and a ministerial task team was formed to address their concerns.
“We have started working on their grievances and in the past two months we have spent M18.8 million to pay the 582 teachers who were owed by the government,” Rapapa said.
The ministerial task team is made up of Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo, Home Affairs Minister Tsukutlane Au, Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Prof. Ntoi Rapapa and Law Minister Lebohang Hlaele.

LAT chairperson Letsatsi Ntsibolane said teachers will not be intimidated.
“We will engage in different forms of strike and the longevity will be determined by the minister’s delays in addressing our issues,” Ntsibolane said.
In the textile industry, workers have been on strike, which first started on August 9.

Last week their strike became violent as several buildings and cars were damaged when some striking workers tried to force other colleagues to join them in the action.
The angry workers said they had just heard that their employers, through their Textile Employers Association, had filed a court case opposing the government’s decision to increase minimum wage to M2 000 from the current M1 200. The cabinet reached a decision earlier this month that the workers should be paid no less than M2 000 per month. Labour Minister Rantšo was yet to publish the gazette effecting the decision.

Staff Reporter

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