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Hard labour at Queen II

…workers endure inhumane treatment

Mafa Moleko

“When I got injured they kept me in the house, I was only attended by their health officers, tried to work on my eye but it got worse. It became worse until I asked to go out to see a doctor, they allowed me to go but when I came back I was told there are no rooms therefore they would call me.”

These are the shattering words of a former employee at a Chinese Construction company Lesole Rantabane, who plied his trade at the site where the new Queen II hospital is being built at the heart of Maseru city.

He told this publication that the employees are subjected to enforced hard labour without leave or chance to see their loved ones or family members. Rantabane said he was working on a roof top with grinding machinery when his eye got injured.

This was disclosed by the Construction, mining and quarrying and allied Workers Union (CMQ) Secretary General Robert Mokhahlane who explained the conditions of work for Basotho who work in the Chinese construction company.

Mokhahlane said workers are denied freedom to go to their homes and remain enclosed like prisoners on campus for six months and only then can they go to their homes. They are only allowed to be visited by the family members who will be allowed to talk to them from a distance at the construction site gates.

Mokhahlane said during the Covid-19 lockdown, constructions were only allowed to carry on with the work if they stayed on site and remain there not going home where they are likely to get infected. However, even after the government has declared Lesotho to be on complete free movement those workers still do not go to their homes.

“They are given food that they do not like and enjoy, they often eat rice and for them it is sometimes not enough to satisfy them, so when they ask for more they get into expulsion problem,” said Mokhahlane.

He added that one of the workers was dismissed from work because he claimed he was not given enough food and wanted more, the worker was dismissed on claims that he is verbally attacking the Chinese officer in the kitchen.

“They do not have access to their salaries because their bank cards are left at their homes and are used by those remaining at home,” he said.

He disclosed that workers were allowed to open the accounts but to leave cards back home as they shall be spending six months onsite. Furthermore, they are only given pay slips showing them how much were deposited into their accounts monthly.

According to the contract, the workers are supposed to work for 8 hours, however they have been working from 7 am till 5pm and the hour is considered as an overtime which they have no choice but to work since they are always at the area.

The union on the other hand is not allowed to communicate with the workers to see how they are doing and to confirm their wellbeing. Until now Mokhahlane mentioned that they have received reports that none of labor officers have visited the area for inspection and to ensure the wellbeing of the workers.

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