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Opposition warns of more protests

Caswell Tlali & ’Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — Organisers of last Thursday’s march against government policies have warned of more protests if their grievances are not addressed.

The few hundred protesters have given Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and parliament a two-week ultimatum or they will take to the streets again.

They said if the government fails to respond by May 19 they will rope in all factory workers and taxi operators.

Macaefa Billy, the leader of the Factory Workers Union (Fawu) who is also the president of the opposition Lesotho Workers Party told the Sunday Express that Mosisili should expect bigger protests next time if he ignores their demands.

“It is a well known fact that Mosisili has a habit of not replying when the people write in protest against him,” Billy said.

“This time he will learn the hard way that ignoring the people’s complaints is a serious offence,” he said.

Fawu was one of four trade unions that took part in the protests.

Billy said Mosisili, who was in Malaysia on a four-day state visit when the march happened, had “a notorious reputation of ignoring people’s demands”.

“I have never seen him meeting protesters and receiving their letters of grievances and I think he takes people for granted,” Billy said.

The protest’s interim secretary, Bokang Ramatšella, told the marchers after handing their letters of grievances to the clerk of parliament that they should now wait for Mosisili’s reply.

When the impatient protesters asked what would happen if Mosisili ignored their demands, Ramatšella said they would deal with the matter when the time comes.        

“When that happens we will see what we should do at that time,” he said.

The poorly attended protest was joined by officials from workers’ federations, taxi associations, business associations and labour.

The protesters were led by the Maseru Region Taxi Operators Association.

Part of the reason for the poor turnout was that youths from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), who had initially planned the protest, did not participate in the march after deputy LCD leader Lesao Lehohla pleaded with them not to embarrass the party and government.

Organisers insist that the poor turnout does not mean that march was a flop.

Billy said the groups involved had agreed that only their senior officials and not the members would attend the march.

The purpose of the march, Billy said, was just to hand in their petition to Mosisili and parliament.

The “real protest” will happen if the government refused to address their issues.

Grievances

  • MRTO wants government to increase taxi fares by 100 percent
  • The association wants the Road Transport Board to regulate local taxi industry without interference from cabinet
  • Government must review compensation for victims of road accidents
  • Taxi owners want government to hire their vehicles and stop hiring from foreign-owned businesses
  • Government must deal with the cross-border issue
  • Government must ditch plans to install toll-gates on local roads and limit toll-gates on highways
  • Mosisili should step down as leader of Business Council
  • Government must deal with rampant corruption in civil service
  • Foreign investors must be confined to big business enterprises and leave small businesses to locals
  • Civil servants must be allowed to join trade unions of their choice
  • Labour Code 2006 should be principal law for workers
  • Government must pass the Social Security Bill of 2000 into law
  • Government must sponsor all students in institutions of higher learning
  • The new M50 million credit guarantee fund must have clear and fair regulations to benefit the needy
  • Government must carry out thorough audit of block farming scheme
  • Government must improve service delivery
  • Government must intervene to stop the “disgusting treatment” of Basotho at the Lesotho-South Africa border
  • A review of boundaries between Lesotho and South Africa.

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