Human trafficking, Police Brutality and Violation of human rights in Lesotho may result in termination of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)-Compact 2 agreement if they are not taken care of by February 2021.
This was said by the General Secretary of the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) on a press conference in Maseru on Monday.
“The government of America is concerned that the rate of human trafficking and police brutality in the country has increased and that may result into termination of this two agreements if not taken care of very soon,” he said.
Mokhele indicated it is important to protect these two agreements as they contribute largely the economy of Lesotho.
“If the AGOA agreement can be terminated that will also result in unemployment increase, poverty and violation of human rights,” he said.
“We therefore, call on the government of Lesotho to address the ultimatum on Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)-Compact 2 with immediate effect,” he explained.
“Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union(NACTWU), United Textile Employees(UNITE) are embarking on a campaign which will further calls on Basotho to support the labour movement on this endeavor. Safety, respect, and job security are more critical than ever in this moment,” Mokhele said.
The agreements signed and entered into by the government was an attempt of the United States (US) government to boost the economy of Lesotho, recognizing the need to secure jobs, address basic human needs, free trade and other issues which are going to see Lesotho reclaiming its presence in the global market.
The General Secretary said these rights are under threat from the inequality, poverty and social instability caused by the covid-19 pandemic, which leaves workers, particularly women and other marginalized workers, at increased risk of GBVH and other gross violation of human rights.
“Measures to respond to the dying economy of this country and provide emergency relief must address and prevent job loses, GBVH including trafficking in human, police brutality and the underlying issues that have left so many vulnerable. The agreements provide a roadmap for how governments and employers can address the root causes of ailing economy and improve the lives of millions of workers and Basotho nation,” he said.
“Some of the underlying issues are the incoherent policies in relation to worker’s rights. We have a labour code amendment draft bill that has been sitting since 2006, lack of urgency in gazetting the minimum wage increments, incapacity in the justice system,” Mokhele said citing, DDPR, labour court, labour appeals court.
Mokhele said, some of these bilateral agreements outline how governments and employers can address risk factors in specific sectors and occupations, including those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Nurses and other healthcare workers, retail workers and others who have been forced to work during the pandemic face increased physical and psychological abuse. Domestic workers have found themselves trapped in the homes where they work, experiencing unwanted sexual advances, physical assault, and rape at the hands of their employers. A response from the Hon. Prime Minister would mean that the government have to consult with essential workers, youth and communities to ensure that their voices are heard, respected and most importantly they are held accountable to in protecting the sovereign rights of the Basotho nationalities from exploitation and harmful practices. Safe jobs and secure future are our fundamental right which is the duty of this government to protect at all cost,” he said.
Mokhele added that the issues they are raising requires that government addresses the impact of unemployment. Lack of jobs has a direct impact on how families function, it leads to instabilities in the economy which have a direct correlation with trafficking in humans, escalation in domestic violence; unsolicited business and other criminal activities.
“Responding to the AGOA ultimatum including but not limited to other foreign direct investments, but a broader economic plan. Would mean that Basotho would not be forced to choose between keeping their job or keeping themselves safe,” he said.
“It has never been more critical to confront the economic instability and its impacts on a sustainable economic growth. Therefore, we call on Basotho to demonstrate their undying commitment to ending poverty. GBVH in the world of work, youth unemployment, selective infrastructure development by ensuring that the government of Lesotho is held accountable and underperforming minister are dealt with immediately such as ministry of labour and employment. Companies who think they can do what they want are called to order. We deserve to know concrete efforts being taken by our government in responding to the current crises of losing AGOA and MCC as it is our birth right and survival. This is our first step towards the government in an effort to make sure that the workers of this country and the economy is safe since more is to come if we are unheard because the current situation is going to affect every one of us. Youth unemployment is a great concern to us as labour movement because youth are the future of this country and we need this issue also addressed with immediate effect and to succeed on these we therefore have to come together and protect what is our right and the country economy by making more campaigns till we are sure and satisfied that Basotho and Lesotho are safe,” he explained.