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Any day now . . .

MASERU — Commotion breaks out at the Thetsane Textile Industries’ main entrance as hordes of desperate jobseekers jostle to position themselves right in front of the gate.
It is an arm-and-chest fight between men and women, young and middle-aged, as they scramble for a place that offers the best view for the prospective employer.
It is shortly after six in the morning but Kofi Annan Road — which goes past Thetsane Textiles — is already teeming with anxious jobseekers hopeful of securing employment at one of the few remaining factories in Maseru.
And at the factory gate, the jostling continues, but less frantic now, as positions are slowly but eventually secured.
Then the waiting game begins.
Seconds painfully tick away and, hours later, nobody has appeared to offer the waiting throng any respite in the form of much-needed employment.   
By 11am, they start to lose hope and, one by one, walk away from the gate.
Many make their way back home in disappointment.
A few others — like Liteboho Mollo from Ha-Matala — are still hopeful and remain, determined to stay for as long as they can.
For Mollo, who says she has been queuing for a job at almost every textile factory in Maseru for over five months, abandoning this punishing routine is never an option.
“I will stay here for as long as it takes. I have no other option but to wait,” she says.
“What if it was going to be my lucky day to be picked (for a job) and I had just left?
“I wouldn’t want to risk it.”
Mollo is a picture of desperation.
Her facial skin has been scorched by the sun.
She sits on a patch of grass next to a vendor’s stall and tells the Sunday Express she has not had anything to eat since leaving home early in the morning.
Five days a week over the past five months, Mollo says, she has been following the same schedule — queuing at factory gates as early as 6am to chase a dream that has so far been a nightmare.
“I’m hungry, thirsty and tired,” she says.
“But I will not leave until the factory workers knock off.”
She says the 10km walk from the Thetsane industrial area back to Ha-Matala would be easier with the factory workers for company.
“I cannot walk under the hot summer sun alone,” Mollo says.
“I wait for the workers to knock off so they keep me company.”
At the Maseru West Industrial Area, 28-year-old Lineo is anxious.
She is also waiting for any available job offer from the factory supervisors.
Lineo and 10 other women sit in a group just outside one textile factory.
She eats sweetened sorghum mealies — the only food she can afford while she awaits her lucky day.
She has been seeking employment at various factories for over two years now.
Lineo has not found a permanent job yet — only “piece jobs” which pay M30 a day.
She is determined to wait here for as long as she can to stand a chance of getting a job.
“It has been over two years since I started looking for a job here,” she says.
“I have only managed to secure one-day ‘piece jobs’, which come once in a while.
“So most of the time I sit here with other jobseekers, hoping and praying for the best.”
Lineo, who comes from Ha-Tsósane, says she has to walk more than 10km to the industrial areas.
“Sometimes I’m offered free rides, but most of the time I have to walk,” she says.
“My life was endangered the other morning when one driver tried to ‘abduct’ me together with another jobseeker.
“We jumped out of the speeding car and got injured.” 
Another jobseeker, ‘Manthabiseng Rankoti, says she needs employment now more than ever.
Rankoti, a mother of three, says should she fail to secure a job, her children would go hungry this Christmas.
“Christmas is fast approaching and I have not been able to buy my kids any clothes,” she says.
“I saw the disappointment on their faces when I couldn’t buy them anything last year.
“I don’t want to see that again.
“If only I could get lucky and get a job.”
Rankoti has been queuing for a job since June, leaving her three-month-old baby at home.
She also has only been offered “piece jobs” that pay M30 a day which she says is better than staying at home and not knowing where to get her children’s next meal.
“M30 is just too little but with it I am able to buy some maize-meal and vegetables,” she says.
“It is better than nothing.”
However, she says the past three weeks have been the toughest — there has been no job offer for her.
Most of the jobseekers complain of going hungry on most days, saying they often beg for food from factory employees.
‘Matselane Futho, 25, says she cannot afford to buy anything to eat since she last had a “piece job” three weeks ago.
“I was lucky and got a ‘piece job’ which lasted for two weeks, the longest offer I have ever received,” she says.
“I got paid but now the money is all finished.”
She was once a full-time factory employee but got fired last year.
Since then, Futho has been on the road, seeking “piece jobs” for survival.
Another jobseeker, 20-year-old Nooa Amen of Qoaling, had to drop out of school and look for a job when her parents “deserted” the family.
Amen started queuing for a job in April but had to abandon the search two months later after her mother fell sick.
She says she has not been able to secure any job since returning from the “break”.
“I have not been able to get a job since June,” she says.
“I had disappeared for a month and the employers had possibly forgotten about me.
“You don’t have to go away once they have spotted you because they might want to keep you longer.”
Lesotho’s unemployment rate is estimated at 45 percent.
The textile and garment industry remains Lesotho’s largest formal employer, with 85 percent of the workers being women.
In 2007 the industry employed 47 000 workers, with the government being the second biggest employer with 39 040 civil servants.
But the sector has been reeling because of the global recession that has seen exports drying up.
Finance Minister Timothy Thahane recently warned that the textiles industry faced dire consequences because of a severe liquidity crisis as banks had stopped giving credit to local firms.
This would result in massive job cuts, he said.
Thahane said 1 235 Basotho had lost their jobs in the manufacturing industry this year alone.
Because of the recession and dwindling export markets, most textile firms have scaled down operations.
And that has meant job losses and fewer opportunities for the hundreds of jobseekers who queue up outside textile factories in Maseru.
Yet the likes of Rankoti will not give up as yet.
To them, the “piece jobs” that might come their way mean a lot.
“I lost patience at some point when days went by and I was not called for a ‘piece job’,” Rankoti says.
“But I didn’t have any other alternative, so I came back.
“I might wait for the next three weeks or longer, without any job, but I won’t give up because I have children to feed.”

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