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Striking workers cause mayhem

by Sunday Express
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’Marafaele Mohloboli

POLICE had to use rubber bullets and water cannons to disburse rowdy factory workers who struck on Thursday to protest the government’s delay in addressing their demands for salary increments and improved working conditions.

The strike followed the government’s failure to meet the workers’ 14-day ultimatum that was issued on 25 June 2018 to implement salary increments.

Thousands of workers converged at the Moshoeshoe 1 monument in Maseru on 25 June where they delivered a petition to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane demanding salary increments for all workers.

The protestors, who comprised of factory employees, security guards and general workers from the retail and catering sector, want a 15 percent increment for all workers. They are also demanding a general minimum wage of M2000 for factory workers.

The workers also demanded that Dr Thabane sack Labour Minister, Keketso Rantšo, who they accused of neglecting their welfare concerns.

And on Thursday thousands of factory workers turned the Ha Thetsane, Maseru textile factories area and the nearby residential area into a war zone.

Skirmishes between police and protesting workers were also reported in Maputsoe. The Deputy Secretary of the National Clothing and Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), Tšepang Makakole was arrested in Maputsoe for allegedly inciting the striking workers into acts of violence and vandalism.

Mr Makakole, who is popularly known as Nyakanyaka, is also a radio presenter for MoAfrika FM radio and a Famo musician.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said Mr Makakole “is facing charges of inciting public violence and he remains in custody until police have finished with their investigations and this could be on Monday (tomorrow).”

Supt Mopeli did not elaborate as to how Mr Makakole incited the violence but sources said he was arrested in the aftermath of the acts of violence that followed his address to the striking workers.

According to Section 85 of the Penal Code Act of 2010, “A person who acts or conducts himself or herself in a manner or speaks or publishes such words from which there is a real likelihood that the natural and probable consequence of his or her action, conduct or speech will lead to public vio­lence… commits an offence.”

NACTWU Secretary-General Sam Mokhele said they visited Mr Makakole at the police holding cells in Maputsoe on Thursday only to be told that he had been moved to Hlotse to await his court appearance on Monday (tomorrow).

“We were told that he had incited public violence while reporting the events of the strike as they unfolded,” Mr Mokhele said.

On Thursday, factory workers took to the streets of Maseru Industrial area, Thetsane and Maputsoe where they vandalised private property.

Standard Lesotho Bank in Maputsoe and some Chinese shops were stoned and damaged. In Thetsane, rowdy workers set up street barricades with rocks and burned tyres. They also stoned some Chinese-owned shops near Lifefo playground and attacked police officers with stones.

Some of the residents in Thetsane locked themselves in their houses in fear of the protestors. The workers also disturbed the smooth flow of traffic by blockading the road. Even yesterday, some of the rocks and burnt tyres could still be seen on the roads in Thetsane.

“They (striking workers) wreaked a lot of havoc in Maputsoe as some factories were also vandalised. We are yet to assess the cost of the damage. A man was also arrested after he was caught red-handed smashing the Standard Lesotho Bank offices.

“Many Chinese shops were also vandalised and we believe that we are going to make more arrests once we have gone through the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) footages availed to us,” Sup. Mopeli said.

He said there were also two people who were injured in Maputsoe “and it is yet to be established whether they were shot by police with rubber bullets because things had really gone out of hand”.

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