The Ha Thetsane factory workers ganged up this week picketing and complaining about their long unfulfilled salary increment by the Government of Lesotho.
At least three sustained gun injuries and were rushed to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital. The show got intense when the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) showed up to put the situation under control with rubber bullet loaded guns armed to the brim on Wednesday.
The strike which took place near the factories and Thetsane Police Station and had activists chanting protest songs on top of their voices.
The demonstrators demanded a 20% salary increment which they were promised last year April by the former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane.
The textile workers comprised of T.Z.I.C.C Clothing Manufactures, J and S Fashions, Tai Yuan Garments and Global Garments from Ha-Thetsane. This was influenced by the delay of the Ministry of Labour and Employment to release the salary gazette and reports indicate that the gazette has not been released since April 2020.
One of the irate textile workers whom this publication chose to keep their names anonymously said they are now tired and impatient of waiting for the government to release salary gazette. She further stated that their salaries have been increased by just 3% which is not what they asked for and they do not get their full salaries month end.
“The government does not care about us, since last year April they have not released the gazette and now they give us peanuts over what we asked for. We demand 20% increment on our salaries and no salary cut, the firm owners are robbing us with salary cuts and the unions of textile workers are doing nothing for us regarding the salary increment,” she said.
She further said that the unions for textile workers were in long negotiations with the factory owners but they never gave them accurate feedbacks which melts down their patience. She says that they asked their unions to go on strike last week Wednesday but their unions refused and asked them to postpone as they were awaiting to get legal permit to go for a march but their request was denied. We then decided to act on our own without our unions,” she said.
United Textile Employees’ Deputy-Spokesperson Potloloane Monare clarified that some of their members were part of the strike. Moreover, Monare indicated that the Unions asked the workers to be patient as they try to talk to the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the firm owners which are not going as fast as they wish and also the on the event of the strike the textile workers were very furious and did not listen until the police intervene.
“United Textile Employees, N.A.C.T.U, I.D.U.L and Lentsoe La Sechaba on 21 April held a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment to discuss the events and the cause of the strike. We discussed a way forward which involves the releasing of the wages gazette for the present year which the honourable Minister said would be available in a month’s time then he will pass it to the cabinet for approval. The other issue discussed in the meeting is who led the textile workers to strike and all unions present denied telling or influencing their members to engage in an unlawful strike,” Monare explained.
However, stated that there are three men who were shot of which two of them are textile workers and the other is a street vendor who was caught in crossfire. Monare implied that the police did not have to use the fire power to control the situation as he explained that violence does not solve violence.
Police Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli told this publication that police shot with rubber bullets and arrested three men who were causing riot and distraction.
“These men were part of the strike, blocking the gates of the factories while stopping others from going to work that’s why the police had to control the situation and they were taken to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital for medical care,” he said, adding that the strike was not legal and there was no permit issued making the whole situation illegal.
Meanwhile, QMMH Spokesperson Mothepane Thahane confirmed that the hospital received three patients who were shot on April 21, 2021. The patients were men said to have been involved in the textile workers’ strike. She said the two were treated as outpatients while the third one still remains in hospital.