Mapesela, Seleke blast factory unions
THE Minister of Trade and Industry, Tefo Mapesela and the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LDNC) Chief Executive Officer, Mohato Seleke, have accused trade unions of pursuing a political agenda instead of the interests of the workers they represent.
Mr Mapesela and Mr Seleke made the accusations in response to recent comments on some radio stations attributed to some of the workers’ unions to the effect that the government had done to assist at least 980 workers who were left jobless after the closure of the Peter Blond factory in Maputsoe in February 2017.
The union bosses also alleged that the LNDC was corrupt.
Speaking at a press conference in Maseru on Friday, the duo accused the unions of seeking to cause commotion by spreading falsehoods.
Mr Seleke said the Peter Blond factory was shut down after it was found to be in serious debt. He said he was disappointed to note that while has been working tirelessly to ensure that all creditors, mostly workers, were reimbursed, the unions were misinforming the public that the LNDC had ignored the matter.
“This factory lost one of its major customers and ended up owing rent to the LNDC, and owing the Water and Sewage Company, Lesotho Electricity Company and the Lesotho Revenue Authority. This forced the company to shut down,” Mr Seleke said.
“The previous administration did nothing about the matter and it was only when I got into office that my boss (Mr Mapesela) instructed me to address the issue and we decided to liquidate Peter Blond assets in order to pay its creditors. By law, the LNDC should be the first on the list of creditors to be paid but we decided to put people who worked there first and from the liquidation we have secured over M1 million which will be used to pay the workers.
“We also secured two investors and one of them will occupy the building which was occupied by Peter Blond and employ 500 of its former workers. The other investor is renovating the factory he will occupy in Maputsoe and employ 1000 people by June this year.
“I have shared this information with the trade unions and asked them to approach LEC, WASCO and LRA to ask that they also consider the plight of the affected workers first but to my surprise, they are have gone to different radio stations lying to people saying that the LNDC is corrupt and is ignoring the matter.”
For his part, Mr Mapesela said although he is not the labour minister, he had however, engaged the unions to ensure that Basotho were protected from exploitation by investors. He however, said he was taken aback by the unions who chose to go and tarnish the government’s image on radio instead of working with him to protect workers.
“My duty is to attract investors into the country and that will be difficult if workers are always on strike. So I met with the trade unions on 19 February this year and asked them to table their issues for mediation. They said their major concern was on the issue of salaries and they were still negotiating with the factory operators. So I told them to get back to me if they were not satisfied (with the outcome of the negotiations) so that I can mediate and if need be, call for the factories’ financial audits and check whether they really cannot afford to pay higher salaries.
“Till this day I have not got an update from them regarding the negotiations.
“They mercilessly take subscriptions from the low earning factory workers but they use the media to canvass for more subscriptions by badmouthing the government. We know that one of them works for a radio station that is anti-government so he uses that station to lie about us. We cannot help anyone enslave Basotho but we are here to create investment in the country which will benefit Basotho,” Mr Mapesela said.
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