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Power struggle rocks Lecawu

By Lineo Pene

MASERU — The Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union (Lecawu) has been rocked by a power struggle for the second time in nine years.
So bad is the internal strife that the union’s secretary general Daniel Maraisane and president ’Mats’epo Lehlokoane are no longer seeing eye-to-eye.
Lehlokoane believes she should immediately replace Maraisane as Lecawu’s secretary general.
Maraisane has however vowed to hold on to the position until the end of this year.
This paper understands that the two are fighting over the secretary general’s position because it is the only post in the union that is salaried.
Lehlokoane left her job with a Maputsoe-based factory.
According to the Lecawu’s constitution, the general secretary is a paid executive official who runs the daily affairs of the union.
The president and other executive members are not paid.
Lehlokoane has been the Lecawu president since 2003 when the then general secretary Macaefa Billy broke away to form the Factory Workers Union (Fawu).
Maraisane has been the union’s general secretary since 2003.
Lehlokoane claims that Maraisane has been dismissed from Lecawu and therefore does not have powers to represent the union.
But Maraisane maintains that he is still the secretary general as his expulsion will only be effective from December 2, this year.
The bitter fight between the two started in February last year when Lehlokoane led her faction to a conference which elected her as general secretary to replace Maraisane.
Following the conference Maraisane’s faction lodged a complaint with the Labour Commission, arguing that the conference that had elected Lehlokoane was “unconstitutional and in violation of the labour law”.
The Labour Commission then summoned representatives of the union’s warring factions and ordered the parties to resolve their differences.
Lehlokoane however complains that on February 16 last year when they were in negotiations she and three other members of her camp, President Lebohang Matjeka, First Vice-President ’Mabatho Thathasela and treasurer Letsie Clark were issued with an order to appear before a High Court judge.
“The application in the High Court was filed by Daniel Maraisane who called himself the union’s secretary general but knowing well that at that time he was a mere project coordinator,” Lehlokoane said.
“Maraisane is supported in this application by Khethang Suthisi, the Thetsane region general secretary, and Ts’episo Maputle who is an ordinary member,” she said.
Maraisane was asking the High Court to declare the conference held by the Lehlokoane faction on February 5 and 6 null and void.
He also wanted the High Court to declare Lehlokoane’s committee illegal and restore Lecawu’s executive committee which was elected in 2007.
Maraisane also petitioned the court to block Lehlokoane from entering the union’s offices and attending its meetings.
Lehlokoane and the trio had already submitted their names to the Lecawu’s bank, Nedbank Lesotho, as the union’s new signatories but Maraisane has requested the court to order them to withdraw them.
In August the High Court heard the case and threw out Maraisane’s case and ordered him to pay the cost of suit.
Maraisane’s appeal against that ruling is still pending in the Court of Appeal.
Armed with the High Court judgment, Lehlokoane’s committee called Maraisane to a disciplinary hearing in Maputsoe.
When Maraisane refused to attend the hearing Lehlokoane’s committee sacked him.
Maraisane however told the Sunday Express that he is still Lecawu’s secretary general because the letter he received indicated that his expulsion is effective from December 2, 2012.
“At the moment I am still the Lecawu secretary general,” Maraisane said.
He said he does not understand why his disciplinary hearing was supposed to be held in Maputsoe because the union’s headquarters are in Maseru.
“Maputsoe is not even the headquarters of the union,” Maraisane said.
“I am still a member of Lecawu. I am not dismissed until December 2, 2012.
“I will respond to that letter on December 2, 2012.”
The power struggle within Lecawu is threatening its planned merger with other labour unions.
Five textile trade unions are planning to meet on March 10 and 11 to discuss a united front to petition government to increase wages.
The unions are expected to come together and map out how they will petition the government to increase wages from the current M900 to M2 020 a month.
The planned major has already widened the rift between Maraisane and Lehlokoane.
While Maraisane is busy preparing for the merger Lehlokoane says the union is yet to consult its members.
Maraisane said he was leading the union to next month’s meeting for a merger between Lecawu, Fawu, United Textile Employees, National Union of Textile Employees and Lentsoe la Sechaba.
Lehlokoane is however adamant that Maraisane does not have any right to represent Lecawu in any forum because he has been expelled from the union.

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