Work­ers’ union apol­o­gises for rape song

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Na­tional Cloth­ing and Tex­tile and Al­lied Work­ers Union (NCTAWU) has dis­tanced it­self from the work­ers who re­cently sang a song calling on three un­named men to rape the Min­is­ter of Labour and Em­ploy­ment, Keketso Ran­tšo, as pun­ish­ment for award them salary in­cre­ments.

The deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral of NCTAWU, Tšepang Makakole, apol­o­gised on be­half of the union. Mr Makakole how­ever, sug­gested that the rape song only be­came an is­sue be­cause it was di­rected at a high rank­ing in­di­vid­ual who was a cab­i­net min­is­ter.

He ac­cused the govern­ment and the rul­ing par­ties of re­main­ing silent in the face of said threats of vi­o­lence against or­di­nary women.

Mr Makakole apol­o­gised in the af­ter­math of Mon­day’s protest march by thou­sands of work­ers who con­verged at the Moshoeshoe 1 monu- ment in Maseru where they handed a pe­ti­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane de­mand­ing wage in­creases 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 had hoped to de­liver the same pe­ti­tion to Ms Ran­tšo by they were dis­ap­pointed by her fail­ure to meet them on Mon­day.

Govern­ment sources say that Ms Ran­tšo was granted med­i­cal leave of ab­sence by Dr Tha­bane to en­able her to seek treat­ment out­side the coun­try for an undis­closed ail­ment.

Upon re­al­is­ing that Ms Ran­tšo was not present to re­ceive their pe­ti­tion, the in­censed work­ers, who were pre­dom­i­nantly fe­male, broke into a song calling for Ms Ran­tšo to be raped by three men whose names they did not dis­close.

Ms Ran­tšo is the only fe­male leader of a po­lit­i­cal party in Le­sotho. Her Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) is part of the gov­ern­ing coali­tion along with Dr Tha­bane’s All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Monyane Moleleki’s Al­liance of Democrats and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Th­e­sele Maserib­ane’s Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP).

Mr Makakole re­cently told the Sun­day Ex­press that the union was very sorry and did not con­done any be­hav­iour which in­cited peo­ple to com­mit crimes.

He how­ever, sug­gested that the po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the gov­ern­ing four party coali­tion were guilty of dou­ble stan­dards in that they only con­demned the at­tack on Ms Ran­tšo and yet they did not say any­thing about a sim­i­lar state­ment calling for the rape of a fe­male jour­nal­ist, Nthakoana Ngatane.

Mr Makakole said this in ref­er­ence to the Al­liance of Democrats Women’s League (ADWL) which called a press con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day where it con­demned the work­ers who sang the song calling for Ms Ran­tšo to be raped.

The ADWL said it was not only morally rep­re­hen­si­ble but also an in­cite­ment to crim­i­nal be­hav­iour for the protest­ing work­ers to call for any­one to be raped.

Mr Makakole was also speak­ing in ref­er­ence to the fail­ure by the ADWL or any of the rul­ing par­ties to con­demn threats by some un­named peo­ple for SABC News cor­re­spon­dent Nthakoana Ngatane to be phys­i­cally harmed for her cov­er­age of events in Le­sotho last Oc­to­ber.

Ms Ngatane fled the coun­try for South Africa in Oc­to­ber 2017 af­ter be­ing al­legedly threat­ened by uniden­ti­fied peo­ple.

Shortly af­ter flee­ing Le­sotho, Ms Ngatane told the SABC’s Chan­nel Africa ra­dio sta­tion that “jour­nal­ists in Le­sotho are un­der threat on the streets, not from the (Tha­bane) ad­min­is­tra­tion”.

“The Le­sotho govern­ment must come out and clearly con­demn when they know that jour­nal­ists have been threat­ened. They must come out clearly and state that they will not tol­er­ate such acts,” Ms Ngatane said at the time.

And in re­cent in­ter­view with the Sun­day Ex­press, Mr Makakole apol­o­gised for the work­ers’ rape song.

“We are very sorry and we do not con­done such be­hav­iour calling for Ms Ran­tšo to be raped,” Mr Makakole said.

“It is how­ever, quite sur­pris­ing that the same things are not treated the same way.

“We had a youth mem­ber of one of the rul­ing par­ties calling for the rape of a fe­male jour­nal­ist, Nthakoana Ngatane, and yet we never heard much noise be­ing made about that in­ci­dent.

“We won­der if it’s about the class po­si­tion (of the work­ers who sang against Ms Ran­tšo).

“Why are peo­ple not treated the same way in this coun­try,” Mr Makakole asked.

He said it was highly likely that the con­dem­na­tion of the work­ers’ song was meant to di­vert at­ten­tion from the work­ers’ de­mands for wage in­cre­ments.

“Is it be­cause those pe­ti­tioned sud­denly want to run away from the real is­sue of salary in­cre­ment? “Th­ese politi­cians hi­jacked our ‘ Save AGOA’ protest march in 2016 and even went the ex­tra mile to pro­vide us with an am­pli­fy­ing sys­tem and even ad­dressed us.

“Now all of a sud­den, they are say­ing our wage de­mands have been politi­cised. How con­ve­nient,” Mr Makakole said.

The ‘ Save AGOA’ protest march was staged in De­cem­ber 2016 by the work­ers and civic groups to pres­sure the pre­vi­ous govern­ment that was led by Pakalitha Mo­sisili to im­ple­ment the bench­marks that were set by the Amer­i­can govern­ment as a pre­con­di­tion for Le­sotho to re­tain its el­i­gi­bil­ity for African Growth Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA).

AGOA pro­vides for duty-free en­try of goods into the US from des­ig­nated sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries, in­clud­ing Le­sotho. The leg­is­la­tion, which was first ap­proved by the US Congress in May 2000, is meant to in­cen­tivise African coun­tries to open their economies and build free mar­kets.

Among the main el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for AGOA are a mar­ket-based econ­omy, rule of law, sys­tems to com­bat cor­rup­tion, and not en­gag­ing in gross vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tion­ally-recog­nised hu­man rights.

Le­sotho’s tex­tile and gar­ment in­dus­try, which is an­chored on AGOA, em­ploys more than 40 000 peo­ple, in ad­di­tion to other down­stream sec­tors.

Mr Makakole said that in as much as they re­gret­ted the rape song, they re­mained un­shaken in their de­mands for wage in­creases.

“We re­main un­shaken in our de­mands. We want the min­is­ter Ran­tšo to be re­moved from that min­istry as she has failed us. It doesn’t mat­ter whether she is reshuf­fled or fired from cab­i­net, all we want is a change in that min­istry,” Mr Makakole said.

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