TWO South African nationals recently appeared begore the Butha-Buthe Magistrates Court to face charges of contravening the labour laws after they were found to be working in the country without valid work permits.
The two are Jert Jacobs Buitendach (44) and Harold Rolf Arnesen (61). They are both employed at the Liqhobong Diamond Mine in Butha-Buthe. Liqhobong Mine is jointly owned by the United Kingdom-based company, Firestone Diamonds (75 percent shares) and the government (25 percent shares).
They first appeared before Magistrate Lebusa Tšosane on 27 August 2018 and they were remanded out of custody to the 8th of October this year.
The duo face charges of contravening section 165 (1) of the Labour Code of 1992 which state that, “No employer shall employ any person in Lesotho who is not a citizen of Lesotho and no such person shall accept employment in Lesotho unless that person is in possession of a valid certificate of employment (work permit) issued by the Labour Commissioner”.
They are also charged under section 165 (3) which states that “any employer who employs any person and any person who accepts employment in contravention of subsection (1) or (2) of this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of one thousand maloti or six months’ imprisonment or both”.
The Labour Commissioner, ‘Mamohale Matsoso said that the two men were arrested after she received information that they were working at the Liqhobong Diamond Mine without the necessary work permits.
“I got a lead that there were two South African nationals who were working at the (Liqhobong) mine without work permits. We followed it up and we were able to arrest them,” Ms Matsoso said in a recent interview with the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times publication.
The mining industry has been in the news in recent months over the alleged recruitment of undocumented expatriates.
Disgruntled locals recently complained to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the mines side-lined them in preference of expatriates, some of whom did not have the requisite qualifications for the jobs.
The locals also accused senior officials in the Ministry of Labour of fraudulently awarding work permits to some expatriates. Labour officials have however, vehemently denied the allegations of bribe-taking to awarding work permits to undeserving expatriates.
The PAC has since instructed the Ministry of Labour to temporarily suspend the issuance of work permits to pave way for investigations into the fraud allegations.
PAC chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane announced the temporary suspension of the issuance of work permits after workers at the mines submitted at least 21 cases where they alleged that work permits had been issued illegally.
Mr Mochoboroane further said that all work permits found to have been fraudulently issued would be cancelled after the completion of their investigations.