Trade unionist arrested

Trade unionist arrested

MASERU – A TRADE unionist, Robert Mokhahlane, was arrested last Friday for holding an illegal press conference where he spoke out against alleged acts of malpractice at a local dagga company, Medigrow Lesotho. Medigrow Lesotho produces cannabis in Marakabei for commercial purposes.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said Mokhahlane was arrested for holding a press conference without a permit.
Mokhahlane appeared before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court yesterday where he was released on free bail.
Supt Mopeli said Mokhahlane will appear in court for a second time on December 2.

The national organiser of the Construction, Mining and Quarrying (CMQ) trade union, Motlatsi Thuhlo, accused Medigrow Lesotho of working with the police to sabotage workers’ protests.
He said Mokhahlane was arrested for merely exposing the rot at Medigrow Lesotho.
Thuhlo said their Friday press conference was meant to expose how workers were being ill-treated at work.

He said last week he and Mokhahlane hired a van to visit Marakabei to speak to workers who were unhappy about their working conditions.
But they were blocked on their way by the police after they found that the vehicle’s temporary permit had expired.
He said they asked the police to issue them with a spot fine but they declined. Instead they confiscated their car keys and blocked the road.
Thuhlo said their members at Medigrow had only embarked on a strike which was purely a labour issue and not a criminal offence.

“The picketing did not have any element of criminal acts because there was no act of violence,” he said.
He said during the industrial action nothing was damaged as the workers were just singing peacefully.
Thuhlo said they still do not understand why Mokhahlane was arrested. He said the charge that he was “inciting violence” was odd since there was no violence.

He said the arrest was therefore an act of intimidation by the police against Mokhahlane so that he stops representing the interests of workers.
He said after the press conference, the police launched a man-hunt for Mokhahlane until they found him.
“They went to our office seeking our Constitution and I refused because they do not have a right to do so,” he said.
Thuhlo accused the police of abusing their power. He said they will fight the matter through the courts.

Medigrow Human Resources manager, Thapelo Mateisi, said the workers earlier this month sent an ultimatum to management to increase their salaries to M4 000 a month or they would down tools.
Mateisi said the employer responded to the letter telling the workers to channel their grievances to the HR office.
He said the employer also told the workers to follow proper procedures or they would have their contracts terminated.
He said the workers committed criminal offences during the strike when they blocked roads and threatened other workers who were not on strike.
Mateisi also denied that Medigrow was conniving with the police to intimidate workers.
He said Mokhahlane triggered the unlawful strike under the police watch therefore it was the police’s job to stop criminal activities.

Nkheli Liphoto

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