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. . . fired workers now cry foul

MASERU — When Ben Ramahaetsana was fired from Fahhida Cash & Carry on September 20 2005, he was left high and dry because he had not saved any money and had no bank account.

He was dismissed before payday when he had spent the entire M1 000 wage he had received the previous month.

Ramahaetsana faced the challenge of supporting a family of six children and an unemployed wife without any monthly income.

Life has never been the same for Ramahaetsana since he was expelled together with 30 others over the theft of milk at the wholesaler.

Most of them, if not all, were casual employees without contracts.

Six of the fired workers have since died.

The majority, if not all, of the fired employees have been living in abject poverty since their dismissal.

Work has been hard to get for the majority of them.

Lesotho’s unemployment rate is at 45 percent.

In any case, most of the fired workers had minimal or no educational qualifications that would make them marketable to other employers.

“I tried to seek jobs but competition is too tight,” Ramahaetsana told the Sunday Express.

“It seems like everyone in the street is competing for any job available.”

The plight of Ramahaetsana and his colleagues has put focus on the way employees are generally treated.

The Labour Court ruled that Fahhida Cash & Carry had dismissed 31 of its employees unfairly.

But four years since their dismissal, the ex-employees are yet to get any compensation.

Tsoeute Seananko (pictured), another fired worker, feared for the worst.

His landlord was continually threatening to throw him out of his rented quarters for failing to pay his monthly rentals.

Seananko said when he was fired from Fahhida Cash & Carry he was the breadwinner for his family.

“My wife would go and queue at textile firms looking for a job and she had to leave our home early in the morning on foot without having had breakfast,” Seananko said.

“Our four-year-old child had no food to eat during the day.”

Seananko said he decided to become a vendor on the streets of Maseru, but he could not get the M500 he needed as a start-up.

“My sister gave me M70 with which I bought cigarettes to sell at the main bus stop in Maseru,” he said.

“As time went on I bought a small cooler box from a supermarket and someone helped me stock bottled drinks. I also stocked airtime.”

He added: “One day as I was selling cold drinks from my small cooler box, an official from the Lesotho Brewing Company saw me and the brewery donated a bigger cooler box.

“The cooler box boosted my business a lot because I managed to stock more drinks and realised profits quickly.”

Justice Monethi is another dismissed worker who toiled from company to company looking for a new job.

But he felt like “word had spread that workers expelled from Fahhida were thieves who should not be employed”.

“I gave up looking for a job and went to a money lender and borrowed M900 to start a small business in the street,” Monethi said.

“The money I borrowed had a 30 percent interest and I took almost three years to repay it.”

Seananko and Monethi can count themselves a little bit lucky.

The rest of their colleagues badly want Fahhida Cash & Carry to compensate them so that they have a head-start.

They want the wholesaler to pay them at least M10 000 — still a paltry figure only enough to feed a family of five for as many months.

Could the “Milk Case” be only a highlight of the ill-treatment that workers are going through?

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