MASERU – A protest called by the Lesotho National Union of Student (Lenus) on Thursday flopped with the organisers blaming disorganisation for the low turn-out.
Lenus had called the demonstration to commemorate the killing of National University of Lesotho (NUL) student Mat’seliso Thulo last October.
Thulo was fatally shot by the police during the violent protests at NUL’s Roma campus on October 23.
Thursday’s march was also meant to remember Lebohang Makara who was shot and killed by a guard while visiting a relative at the Lesotho Agricultural College last year.
The secretary-general of Lenus, Hlalele Hlalele, said the demonstration failed because of poor planning.
Other student unions boycotted the demonstration altogether alleging it was motivated by politics.
The demonstration, which was expected to be attended by students from at least eight tertiary institutions, only attracted a small crowd of about 22 students from NUL.
The students who had gathered at the Lesotho Agricultural College on Thursday morning dispersed after waiting in vain for two hours for their colleagues to join them.
They left wearing long faces and furious with the organisers who were not even present.
“They have wasted our time and money,” said one of the students. “How could they drop us here and never show up.”
Another student said: “We have better things to do than wait in the streets so early in the morning.”
It was business as usual on Thursday at all tertiary institutions which were expected to attend the march.
The flop could have been a result of a meeting of heads of the institutions who wrote memos warning students against attending the march.
Students at Lerotholi Polytechnic, Lesotho College of Education, National
Health College, Lesotho Agricultural College, NUL and other institutions attended classes on the day of the demonstration.
Students said they would not risk their academic work for a demonstration they suspected was motivated by politicians.
The secretary-general of NUL’s student representative committee, Stephen Letuka, said they would not support Lenus’ demonstration because they discovered that “it was surrounded by political issues”.
“We urged students not to attend the demonstration after we discovered it had a lot to do with politics,” Letuka said.
“We feared for the safety of their lives in that demonstration.
“It would have been a disturbance to their academic time.”
He said the 22 NUL students who turned up for the demonstration had done so in their own individual capacities.
“Our students who attended did so because they wanted to do so,” Letuka said.
“We had agreed with all students not to be part of the demonstration.”
Hlalele on the other hand said the demonstration failed as a result of sabotage by heads of institutions.
“Heads of institutions sabotaged the demonstration,” he claimed.
“They issued letters which threatened students with suspension if they attended the march.”
The march was intended to confront Finance Minister Timothy Thahane and director of National Manpower Development Secretariat Nthometseng Ntsike over the delays in the disbursement of student bursaries.
The procession would go on to confront the Education Minister ‘Mamphono Khaketla before proceeding to Home Affairs Minister Lesao Lehohla and then parliament.