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Lemohang Rakotsoane


ABOUT 5000 workers have been temporarily laid off because textile factories have not had orders for the past two months.

This is because the major buyers in the United States where waiting for their government to renew the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) provision.

AGOA allows Lesotho and other countries to export their textiles to the United States without paying duty. AGOA was supposed to be renewed in September last year but President Barak Obama delayed had to wait until December for approval from the Congress.

During that four month delay buyers in the United States stopped placing orders with Lesotho textile companies. Nearly to 90 percent of Lesotho’s textiles are sold to the United States because of the AGOA provision.

Orders are usually made nine months in advance. Distressed textile companies are hoping that orders will start trickling in at the end of this month. However, in the meantime the sectors has send more than a tenth of its workforce home.

According to Bahlakoana Lebakae,Secretary General of United Textile Employees (UNITE), about 2000 to 5000 factory workers have been affected.  Lebakae said between 80 and 85 percent of factories have been affected.“Some buyers are very sensitive. If there is something that they are not satisfied with and nobody gives any clarification they don’t put their orders,” Lebakae said.“However, this time around due to the uncertainty surrounding AGOA a lot of buyers did not place their orders at the expected time and by the time issues surrounding AGOA were clarified it was too late”. “Another issue is that the US through the Millennium Challenge Corporationwrote a letter to the Finance Minister last year showing that Lesotho should rectify the events of August 30, 2014,” he said.Lebakae said that was “a clear indication” that buyers under AGOA might have a second thoughtson placing orders with Lesotho factories. He said big factories that usually get a lot of orders and then share them with other firms did not foresee that there would not be enough orders.  “Some workers have been home for over a month some two weeks, it differs from factory to factory”.Lebakae said employers being send home were not being paid.

“In our Labour Code we do not have a section catering for short times and layoffs.   We only cater for when a worker is absent at work for personal reasons. The money for those days can be deducted from their salaries,” Lebakae said.

“Moreover, section 85 subsection 4 of the Labour Code says that the employer should pay the employee their salary if at some point the employer sends the employee home due to lack of work,” he said.

He said the employers should have planned “to ensure that there is work for employees todo, not to say they will not pay because employees were not going to work yet it was not their fault that they were not going to work”.

Lebakae some factories had approached unions to discuss the issue but most employers are not prepared to pay employees who are home.

“We will talk with them again after they go back to work but if they are still not willing to pay we will have to take the matter to the  DDPR (Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution) because that would be illegal and we have  won a lot of cases of this nature”.

SeabataLikoti of Independent Democratic Unions of Lesotho (IDUL)said in one factory of 4 000 workers 3 800 were sent home.

“Employers were saying there were no orders and when we approached them they indicated that the prevailing investment climate was not appealing to a lot of buyers,” he said.

“Although we understand what employers are saying they should not get away without paying workers at all. They have families and people who are dependent on them.How will they survive if they do not get their salaries because of instances that were beyond their control?”

S’khulumi Ntsoaole, former Minister of Trade, said it is embarrassing that it has come to this “due to the prevailing political climate”.

“It is not the investors’ fault that they do not have orders. Buyers have resorted to some markets like the South East Asia because currently they do not have confidence in Lesotho. They are not sure that the products have been produced under suitable conditions,” Ntsoaole said.

“Buyers look for democracy and it goes deeper than having elections. They look at things like people’s freedom of speech, the use of rule of law, that courts are being respected and many other things”.

“If any of their requirements is not adhered to they start being reluctant to do business with such a country.  So unless the political climate changes, unless the SADAC report recommendations are attended to, it will be difficult for buyers to want to do business with Lesotho.”

He said the American government “is still pleading with our government to fix governance issues. However, buyers have already made the decision for themselves to do business with some people while we wait to fix the situation”.

“As a result of this short time a lot of people are affected, employers do not have the money to pay workers and it is an uncomfortable situation for many,” he said.

’Maresetselemang Moloi, a mother of two, said she was devastated last week when told to go home because there was no work at the factory.

“In January we earned little because we did nothave a lot of working days. Now we are not going to earn again.  Winter is approaching, schools just re-opened and we have to start paying fees for this quarter. How will we do that if we are not working?” Moloi said.

The textile industry in Lesotho employs over 40 000 people most of them being women.

The garments industry produces approximately 90 million garments a year most of which are bought outside the country by the American, European and SACU markets.

It is the biggest private sector employer.


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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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