Drama as work­ers pe­ti­tion Tha­bane

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THERE were dra­matic ex­changes be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane and thou­sands of an­gry work­ers who de­manded that the premier fire Labour Min­is­ter, Keketso Ran­tšo, who they ac­cuse of fail­ing to award them a wage in­crease.

Thou­sands of work­ers this week con­verged at the Moshoeshoe 1 mon­u­ment in Maseru where they de­liv­ered a pe­ti­tion to Dr Tha­bane to de­mand salary in­cre­ments for all work­ers.

The pro­tes­tors, who com­prised of fac­tory em­ploy­ees, se­cu­rity guards and gen­eral work­ers from the re­tail and cater­ing sec­tor, want a 15 per­cent in­cre­ment for all work­ers. They are also de­mand­ing a min­i­mum wage of M2000 for fac­tory work­ers.

The work­ers also de­manded that Dr Tha­bane sack Ms Ran­tšo for ne­glect­ing their wel­fare con­cerns.

“As the al­liance of trade unions of Lesotho, we de­mand the im­me­di­ate re­lease of a gov­ern­ment gazette on the min­i­mum wage be­fore 30 June which must be ef­fec­tive from 1 July,” the work­ers wrote in their pe­ti­tion which was handed over to Dr Tha­bane.

“We de­mand an in­cre­ment of 15 per­cent for other work­ers and M2000 for fac­tory work­ers.

“We also, with all due re­spect, urge you (Ms Ran­tšo) to re­sign im­me­di­ately from your post as you have shown no in­ter­est in our wel­fare and our liveli­hoods”.

The work­ers had also hoped to de­liver the same let­ter to Ms Ran­tšo but they could not do so as she did not at­tend the gath­er­ing which was also at­tended by sev­eral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Upon re­ceiv­ing the pe­ti­tion, Dr Tha­bane ad­dressed the pro­tes­tors and told them he was just as clue­less as they were about the where­abouts of Ms Ran­tšo.

“I am em­bark­ing on these is­sues in the ab­sence of your min­is­ter. I should be ask­ing you where your min­is­ter is be­cause she hasn’t asked me for a leave of ab­sence. I am just as per­plexed as you are as to where she could be,” Dr Tha­bane said to howls of dis­ap­proval and de­mands that he sack im­me­di­ately Ms Ran­tšo.

The pro­tes­tors also made hand ges­tures to press home their de­mand for Ms Ran­tšo to be fired and Dr Tha­bane re­sponded by ask­ing, “Who should I ex­pel when she is not here?”

“I don’t see her and should I take it that she has ex­pelled her­self? So why should I med­dle in the is­sues of some­one who has al­ready ex­pelled her­self?”

Dr Tha­bane even­tu­ally promised to re­spond to the work­ers’ griev­ances within 14 work­ing days from Mon­day this week, say­ing the mat­ter needs to be dealt with ur­gently. Ms Ran­tšo could not be reached for com­ment.

How­ever, the youth league pres­i­dent of her Re­formed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) party, Retšeli­sis­toe Le­sane, re­futed Dr Tha­bane’s claims that he did not know where she was.

Mr Le­sane, who says he has a man­date to speak on Ms Ran­tšo’s be­half said the min­is­ter had trav­elled abroad af­ter be­ing granted med­i­cal leave of ab­sence by Dr Tha­bane.

He how­ever, re­fused to dis­close her des­ti­na­tion and what she was suf­fer­ing from.

“It’s not true that the premier does not know where the min­is­ter is. She is on leave out­side the coun­try on a trip autho­rised by Tha­bane him­self. She has med­i­cal leave. The premier was just en­ter­tain­ing the masses (when he pro­fessed ig­no­rance of her where­abouts),” Mr Le­sane said.

The work­ers also de­liv­ered the same pe­ti­tion to the Na­tional Assem­bly where it was re­ceived by the deputy speaker Te­boho Lehloenya who was flanked by the clerk, Fine Maema. Mr Lehloenya also promised to re­spond to the pe­ti­tion af­ter 14 work­ing days since par­lia­ment was cur­rently on a break.

He also said the mat­ter would be re­ferred to the par­lia­men­tary so­cial clus­ter com­mit­tee and they would sum­mon Ms Ran­tšo and the union lead­ers for a hear­ing. The Deputy Sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Cloth­ing and Tex­tile and Al­lied Work­ers Union, Tšepang Makakole, said they were not very happy with the re­sponses from Dr Tha­bane and the Na­tional Assem­bly as they had hoped for im­me­di­ate ac­tion to ad­dress their griev­ances.

“We ex­pected to get an im­me­di­ate re­sponse given that there will be a hike in the taxi fares as of 1 July and we want our peo­ple (work­ers) to be catered for in terms of trans­port.

“We are also not happy with the dis­re­spect shown to us by Min­is­ter Ran­tšo who did not show up. It is ev­i­dent that she doesn’t have our in­ter­ests at heart and she should leave of­fice,” Mr Makakole said.

SOME of the work­ers with their plac­ards dur­ing the demon­stra­tion this week.

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