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Teachers union seeks passport-free entry into SA on Workers Day

‘Mantoetse Maama

MASERU – A local teachers’ union has petitioned the South African government to allow its members to cross the border without passports to celebrate Workers Day in Marquard on May 1.

The Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) submitted the petition to the South African High Commissioner, Happy Mahlangu, after a march from the Teaching Service Department (TSD) in Maseru on Thursday.

The LTTU has over the years advocated free movement between Lesotho and its only neighbour South Africa.

In the petition, the union said most teachers were unable to travel to South Africa to commemorate the Workers Day because they did not have passports.

The event in Marquard has been organised by the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

“Workers and many citizens of Lesotho who normally support workers do not have passports and are ready to go and join our joint Workers Day (commemoration) with COSATU in Marguard because it was held in Maseru last year,” said the petition the union delivered to Mahlangu.

The petition was signed by the LTTU general secretary Vuyani Tyhali who has been in the forefront of the Lesotho People’s Charter, a loose coalition of individuals and organisations that have been pushing for South Africa to allow Basotho to enter the country without travel documents.

Mahlangu told the LTTU it would not be possible for South Africa to allow its members to cross into South Africa without passports. 

“All Basotho who want to travel to South Africa are welcome but everybody must be known,” Mahlangu said.

He said the LTTU members cannot go to SA without valid passports until the South African authorities have made other arrangements with the government of Lesotho.

Before going to the South Africa High Commission LTTU members and leaders had picketed at the TSD offices where they complained that the government had arbitrarily stopped remitting subscription fees from union members.

They said the government had stopped the stop-order facility that allowed teachers to pay their monthly membership fees to the union.

The union has accused the government of trying to starve it of funds so it collapses.

This, they said, is because the government is not happy that the union had been advocating to get Lesotho annexed by South Africa.

Last month, the union wrote to Education Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla complaining about the decision to suspend the stop-order facility.

The union also demanded that the government pays teachers whose salaries have been arrears since 2008.

There are also teachers who have not been paid since they started working for government, the union alleged.

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