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Judges’ drivers in overalls and gumboots protest

Nat Molomo

MASERU — Judges’ drivers should always wear suits and ties. At least that has been the norm. But since Tuesday last week they have been coming to work in overalls and gumboots. The reason, they say, is because the High Court has not been paying their clothing allowances. And they say they will continue to wear the overalls and gumboots until they get their allowances.

They say regulations state that every April they are supposed to get two pairs of suits, two pairs of shoes, shirts and ties. They are supposed to get new cell phones after every two years and M200 airtime every month. One driver however told the Sunday Express he last got the clothes six years ago. Others have not received their clothes in five years. They also complained that even when they go outside the country on official duties they do not get per diems.

The management’s excuse is that there is no budget for the items they want, they said. What has particularly angered the drivers is that they are treated differently from the ministers’ chauffeurs. They said ministers’ drivers are in Grade F while they remain in Grade D. This, they said, was a position despite a settlement reached between their lawyers and the Justice Ministry.

The drivers said the settlement which was reached between both parties was in a court case in which judgment is still pending before the Acting Chief Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi. The judges’ drivers said they concluded that the management of the High Court does not want to give them their benefits. They point to a savingram from the Attorney-General,Tsokolo Makhethe, where he was responding to the Registrar of the High Court Lesitsi Mokeke’s letter asking for opinion relating to the payment of chauffeurs.

The savingram from the attorney-general pointed out that the Public Service principal secretary had done a commendable effort to work towards bringing normalcy with regard to this class of employees. “What had been done before was simply discrimination hard to justify and dehumanising,” said the savingram. It said that the one category of chauffeurs for ministers and the other of statutory post holders were differentiated for no other consideration than simply that the former were “chauffeuring” ministers, though the responsibilities of the office are the same materially.

Mokeke told the Sunday Express that he was surprised that the drivers opted to go to work wearing overalls at a time when their issue is being dealt with. “We agreed with them that they would give me until this Friday but they have already started doing this,” Mokeke said. “I wish they could exercise a little patience because things are being worked out,” he said.

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