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Three injured in factory protests

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MASERU-THREE factory workers were injured during violent clashes with the police in the Thetsane industrial area yesterday.
The workers were later admitted at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
The police ordered the demonstrators to disperse after they began pelting buildings with stones. They later fired rubber bullets and teargas at the workers.

The workers were demanding a 20 percent salary raise.
They said they were not happy that Labour Minister Moshe Leoma had approved a three percent bump on their wages.
The workers began singing peacefully in the Thetsane industrial area on Monday. The protest however turned violent the next day.
They also vandalized the factories’ equipment, blocking the roads with stones and burning tyres.

One of the striking workers, ’Mateboho Khomo, told thepost that they are fed up with the government whose MPs pay themselves M5 000 petrol allowances but fail to meet their needs.
“Until today we have not seen last year’s (wages) gazette, what are they doing in their offices?” Khomo said.
The workers said last year, the unions and employers’ representatives in the Wages Board failed to reach an agreement and the minister was supposed to intervene but failed to do so.

They said as a result the Labour Ministry did not issue the 2020 wages gazette and no increment was effected.
Khomo said they are surprised that the textile unions claim the government wants to offer them three percent after spending the whole year silent on the increment.
“We want 20 percent and we are never going to back down on that issue,” Khomo said.

Khomo said they are breadwinners in their families as their spouses even lost jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic adding that their strike will continue until their grievances are addressed.
Her other worry is that their unions are now encouraging some of them to accept the three percent increment.

Another striking worker, Thabelo Mokoma, said the last time they received any increment was during the Thomas Thabane administration.
He accused the current government led by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro of ignoring them.
Mokoma said the government has to issue last year’s wage gazette and this year’s so that they are combined so that workers get paid what they deserve.

“All we want is our 20 percent increment as the shops have inflated their prices making life hard,” Mokoma said.
“It is unfortunate that police shoot us when we fight for our rights,” he said.
He said their agreement with their unions was that they should propose the 20 percent increment and nothing less.
The deputy secretary general of the Independent Democratic Unions of Lesotho (Idul), May Rathakane, said they are still in negotiations with the government on the issue of increments.

Rathakane said the factory workers complain that last year’s gazette was never released as promised by the Minister of Labour.
“They are mainly fighting for last year’s gazette that was delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak,” Rathakane said.
“For the gazette to be released there are a lot of things to be done. The workers ended up losing hope and patience,” he said.
“Minister Leoma is not clear which side he is on as he seems to understand both the employer and the employee at the same time.”

Rathakane said Leoma’s failure to make a decision when the two sides are deadlocked “delays the process and it leads to things like this”.
He added that the workers have been demanding the 20 percent increment ever since last year but to no avail.
“Honestly there is no reason why last year’s gazette was never released,” he said.

He said they wrote to the minister on Monday after getting information that the workers wanted to down tools.
“I could not have released last year’s minimum wage gazette without first studying what had been happening. This is because I found the two sides already fighting I entered office,” Leoma said.
He said when he was appointed minister in February, there was a stalemate between employers and unions and had to bring them for discussions “but still they could not reach any agreement”.

“I called them each week and tried to have them reach an agreement but all was in vain,” he said.
Leoma said today there will be a final sitting after which the chairman of the Wages Advisory Board will go out to consult all stakeholders so that he will be in a good position to advise the minister on the minimum wage.
Leoma also accused IDUL of causing the riots at the factories.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Suspension was malicious, says Nko

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MASERU – A gunshot wound and an attempted murder charge have not stopped Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko from starting a new fight.

The suspended Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) boss is rolling up his sleeves for what promises to be an epic legal battle to be reinstated.

In an application filed in the High Court this week, Dr Nko argues that the LTDC’s decision to suspend him had a “glaring element of bad faith and malice”.

He says the suspension was procedurally flawed because there was no complainant to instigate it and he was not granted a hearing.

Dr Nko was suspended after he was involved in a shooting incident with guests at an event at a Hillsview guest house on December 27.

He is alleged to have rushed home to take his gun after an argument with some of the guests. Dr Nko and a guest sustained gunshot wounds in the scuffle that ensued.

Reports say the guests were trying to wrestle the gun from Dr Nko when the shots were fired.

The LTDC’s board suspended him two days later, alleging that he had failed to attend an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the incident.

The suspension letter was written by Nonkululeko Zaly who was the chairperson of the LTDC board by virtue of being the principal secretary in the Ministry of Trade.

Zaly, who has since been fired following corruption investigations, also approached the court to force the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to return the assets confiscated during a raid at her house.

Dr Nko, in his court papers, accuses Zaly of usurping the board’s powers to suspend him. He says there was never a board resolution to suspend him.

The extraordinary meeting, he alleges, was a “prearranged dishonest scheme between certain members of the board and social media personnel which were part of the ruse deliberately designed to compromise” his interests.

Dr Nko says the board called him to the 29 December meeting when he was on sick leave and then suspended him without hearing his reasons for failing to attend.

He complains that Zaly wrote his suspension letter on the basis of mere allegations even though she had remained principal secretary and chairperson of the board when the corruption investigations against her were in full swing.

He queries why he was being suspended when Zaly was allowed to hold on to her job.

Zaly appears to have been belligerent when Dr Nko’s lawyers contacted her to query the suspension.

She told the lawyers, in a letter, that their queries were based on misinformation. She also dismissed the lawyer’s request for a record of the board meeting that decided to suspend Dr Nko.

“We are therefore not going to honour any of your demands and if your client is not satisfied, he is free to approach any appropriate forums to pursue these baseless issues,” Zaly said in her letter.

The lawyers say that response shows that Zaly was hell-bent on suspending their client.

Dr Nko wants the High Court to order the LTDC board to reverse the suspension, stop his imminent disciplinary proceedings and release the records of its December 29 meeting.

He also says the board is already conducting investigations on the incident to use as evidence against him in the disciplinary hearing.

Staff Reporter

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thepost columnist wins award

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Maseru – Two scholars associated with the National University of Lesotho have been awarded the 2022 Thomas Pringle prize for the best literary article published the previous year.

Chris Dunton, who is a columnist for thepost, and Lerato Masiea have won the prize, which is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa, for their article “Between rocks and hard places: the controversial career of A.S. Mopeli-Paulus,” which was published by thepost.

Dunton was previously Professor and Dean of Humanities at the NUL and for some years cwrote a column for this newspaper titled “Left Side Story.” Masiea is a lecturer in the NUL’s Department of English and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of the Free State.

Their prize-winning article was published in the journal English in Africa (vol.48 no.3, 2021, pp47-64). In it the authors explore the writings and life of the South African Mosotho author Mopeli-Paulus.

As their title indicates, their subject was a controversial figure, who degenerated from being an opponent of the apartheid regime (he was, notably, one of the leaders of the Witzieshoek Cattle Rebellion, for which role he was incarcerated in the Pretoria Central Prison) to being a high-ranking accomplice in the Bantustan system.

He was a prolific writer in both English and Sesotho (at one point he referred to the compulsive desire to write as a kind of madness!), his best-known works being the poetry-collection Ho tsamaea ke he bona (from time to time a set-text in Lesotho schools), the novel Blanket Boy’s Moon and the autobiography The World and the Cattle.

Dunton and Masiea’s article covers all his writing, published and unpublished (his papers are freely accessible at the William Cullen Library, Wits University) and is especially concerned with the question of cross-border identity.

Mopeli-Paulus was born in Monontsa, South Africa, in the lost territories—much in the news recently—and remained a South African citizen all his life. The dust-jacket for his first novel, Blanket

Boy’s Moon — which was an international best-seller — carries his name with the tag “Chieftain of Basutoland”, but this was a mistake.

Nonetheless, Mopeli-Paulus identified very strongly with Lesotho and has much to say — some of it fanciful, even spurious — on concepts of Sotho identity.

Dunton and Masiea explore this issue in detail, as it remains a topic of crucial importance even today.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane to boot out PS

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MASERU – THE Sam Matekane government is getting ready to get rid of Principal Secretaries appointed by the previous administration.

First to be axed is Nonkululeko Zaly who Matekane fired as a PS for the Ministry of Trade on January 11.

Zaly, who is challenging the decision, suffered a blow yesterday when the High Court refused to hear her case on an urgent basis.

Her case will now have to join the long queue of hundreds of others pending in the High Court.

Lefu Manyokole has been replaced as the PS of the local government ministry.

The axe is also likely to fall on government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, and Foreign Affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko.

The four have been the subject of a graft investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

Their homes and offices have been raided and properties seized as the anti-corruption unit investigates allegations that they received millions in bribes from contractors. The four are likely to be the first to be shown the door.

Indications are however that Matekane could be readying to purge the government of principal secretaries inherited from the previous government. Matekane hints at that impending clean up in his dismissal letter to Zaly.

“You will agree with me that as a Principal Secretary, yours was a political appointment,” Matekane said in the letter that Zaly claimed not to have received in her court papers.

“It follows therefore that the working relationship between yourself and the person appointing you, the Prime Minister in this case, is mainly based on utmost trust and confidence.”

“The trust and confidence components become even more important under the obtaining circumstances where the new government, of which I am the head, has just been installed.”

Matekane told Zaly that his government came with new ideas and policies at the top of which is to fight corruption.

He said he was aware that the DCEO had seized certain documents in Zaly’s possession “evidencing a commission of crime and that you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your possession of those documents”.

“This has eroded all the trust and confidence I had in you as the Principal Secretary and there is no way I can continue with you at the helm of any government ministry,” Matekane said.

Highly placed sources in the government have told thepost that Zaly’s exit is just the beginning of a shake-up that will continue for the next three months as Matekane seeks to bring in new people he trusts and share his vision with.

Meanwhile, Moahloli Mphaka, the government’s special adviser in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission this week told the High Court that there is a plan to fire him and two other senior officials.

Mphaka made the allegations in an urgent application to force the commission to pay his salary and that of Thabang Thite, and Bahlakoana Manyanye who are also part of the lawsuit. Thite and Manyanye are assistant advisers in the commission.

Mphaka told the court in an affidavit that on December 22 last year, the Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko told them that his superiors had instructed him to terminate their contracts.

The reason, Mphaka said, is the fact that they are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) members hired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. He said the government’s delay to pay their December salary was meant to frustrate them into resigning.

Nkheli Liphoto

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