FORTY former mine workers have petitioned Labour and Employment Minister Moshe Leoma and Justice and Law counterpart, Professor Nqosa Mahao, to rein on their former employers who they accuse of a host of issues including illegally deducting money from their salaries.
The ex-miners alleged that the money was deducted as contributions into an Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) which is however not catered for in local labour laws hence illegal in Lesotho.
They allege that the money should only have been deducted from their South African counterparts since it is legal in South Africa. The idea behind the UIF is to provide a payment or allowance for workers upon their retirement very much like a pension fund.
Since it is not legal in Lesotho, it should not have been deducted from them but only from their South African counterparts who will be paid out of the fund when they leave their jobs, the 41 former workers argue.
The 40 are Molefe Mosala, Teboho Seeisa, Palesa Tjopinyana, Tlhokomelo Morotehi, Linda Nhlapho, Tiisetso Lesoetsa, Mahlatsi Moeketsi, Mathibela Nthati, ‘Mathato Pule, Teboho Tsupane, Sebeli Masutoane, Eshimal Rantelai, Tankiso Tšoeu, Tsoanelo Nalane, Molulele Sefeane, Qekisi Qekisi, Pholoana Motebang, Kamohelo Nkofo, Motlatsi Sofe, Tieho Sootho, Kamohelo Qekela, Tumelo Khaketla, ‘Matli Ramakhabane, Kapane Serobanyane, Serobanyane Mofikheane, Molikuoa Makhalemele, Boithathelo Soefe, Ngaka Ramakatane, Leteketa Maoela, Mamello Soere, Lineo Sebata, Khoete Falatsi, Teboho Jevu, Shamim Bin Gatree, Madiba Mojalefa Khumalo, Rethabile Thapelo, Thabo Moeno, Mopeli Nqhai, Stimela Gabriel and a D. Hlongwane.
The former workers had given the ministers until Saturday to respond to their grievances. However, they did not specify what action they would take if the ministers did not take corrective measures or respond. Efforts to obtain comment from Mr Leoma and Prof Mahao proved fruitless as their mobile phones rang unanswered over the weekend.
The Sunday Express has seen some of the petitioners’ pay slips showing monthly deductions of M125 each as part of the UIF.
In addition, the former workers are also demanding a probe into the manner in which Liqhobong Mine and other mines which they do not mention by name have allegedly engaged in unfair labour practices including unfairly dismissing them.
The 40 are accuse the Directorate on Disputes Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) and the Labour Court of delaying to deliver judgements on cases pertaining to the alleged the illegal UIF deductions and unfair dismissals from work.
They further allege that they have been reduced to poverty and destitution as a result of the unfair dismissals and abrupt closure of the Liqhobong Mine last April. The mine stopped operations due to Covid-19 induced operational challenges. It is not clear when, if at all, it will resume operations. The mine, which commenced commercial production in July 2017, is owned by Firestone Diamonds with 75 percent while the remaining 25 percent is held by the government of Lesotho.
“Both the DDPR and the Labour Court are taking their time in delivering judgements related to unfair dismissal and unlawful deductions of unemployment insurance fund (UIF),” the workers state in their petition which was delivered to Mr Leoma and Prof Mahao’s offices on Monday.
“We ask you, through your offices and collaboratively working with the Ministry of Mining, to investigate Liqhobong Mine, particularly its sub-contracted company Basil Read, which is seemingly doing as it pleases. The eventual opening of the Liqhobong Mining should also be under microscopic investigations particularly on what is going to happen to ex-employees.
“Your ministry must thoroughly investigate work permit related issues. For example, expatriates are allocated work permits illegally and that is having a negative impact on the country’s economy and denies the indigenous Basotho job opportunities. We therefore request the launch of investigations in the issuance of work permits to expatriates attached to S.M.E.I and Basil Read companies sub-contracted by the Liqhobong Mine,” the ex-workers state. However, they do not provide any evidence of the alleged illegality in the issuance of work permits.