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Fresh protests loom

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’Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — Business, opposition parties, civic and labour organisations that took to the streets a fortnight ago to protest against government policies are planning to meet tomorrow discuss their next step.

On May 5 the group, a medley of groups with different grievances, handed their petition to the government demanding immediate action.

Top of the long list of their grievances was that government must immediately review taxi fares by 100 percent and reverse its decision to freeze civil service jobs this year.

Taxi operators also wanted the government to suspend its plans to construct toll gates along Lesotho’s main roads.

Trade unions said they wanted the government to increase the minimum wage in the textile industry and allow women working in that sector to enjoy the same maternity leave conditions as workers in other sectors.

Business people demanded that foreigners should concentrate on huge enterprises and leave small businesses for Basotho.

Students wanted the state to sponsor all colleges and courses.

They also demanded that the block farming scheme be audited.

The block farming scheme was a revolving fund established by the government to help small-scale farmers.

There have been allegations that some senior government officials have failed to pay back the millions they borrowed from the fund which is run by a local bank.

Civil organisations wanted free movement on Lesotho’s borders with South Africa.

The group, led by the Maseru Region Transport Operators, had given the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili until May 19 (Thursday last week) to deal with their grievances.

But now that the deadline has passed the group says it will meet tomorrow to discuss the way forward. 

Mokete Jonase, the spokesperson for Maseru Region Transport Operators (MRTO), confirmed tomorrow’s meeting but could not say whether or not they will stage another protest to pressure the government to address their concerns. 

“We are going to have a meeting with representatives of other associations on Monday (tomorrow) morning because we have not yet received any answers from the government,” Jonase said.

“During the meeting we will discuss our next step if by then we would not have heard from government in response to our concerns.”

Macaefa Billy, the leader of Lesotho Workers’ Party and secretary general of the Factory Workers Union, told the Sunday Express that when the group meets tomorrow he is going suggest that fresh protests start with a stay-away.

If that fails, Billy said, they will move to the streets.

He however noted the stay away will not happen immediately because they would need a few months to organise it.

Billy said he was not surprised the government did not respond to their concerns.

“I have led many protests and the government has not responded,” he said.

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