MASERU — Lesotho Teacher’s Trade Union (LTTU), Secretary General Vuyani Tyhali, born in the Quthing district in Mjanyane in the 1960s, says he was brought up in a family of activists where his great grandfather fought Afrikaners in the Eastern Cape.
The Sunday Express yesterday met Tyhali, who is not only the LTTU Secretary General but also holds the same position in the Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions (COLETU).
Tyhali was raised by single mother Nomaqwija Tyhali and was very close to his grandparents who he says played a vital role in grooming him into the popular unionist he is today.
“My grandfather and his sons fought a lot with Afrikaners during land wars,” Tyhali says.
“I want to give you a full picture of where I come from because my grandparents were involved in the wars of resistance though they were fighting with guns I am fighting a trade union fight,” Tyhali told the Sunday Express.
Tyhali says though they influenced his thinking, he wanted to be “smart” and out-do them.
Tyhali at the age of eight had already been taught (South Africa’s) Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) politics by one of his grandfather’s sons, Hlubi Tyhali.
He describes Hlubi as one of the most active politicians who headed every march and would be arrested and escape from prison cells.
“That man taught me PAC politics until he died in 1969. What was he expecting from me? He knew exactly what he was doing!” Tyhali emphasises.
Tyhali remembers that Hlubi’s death did not stop him from improving his political knowledge, instead it persuaded him to want more.
“I attended Tele Primary School and high school at Masitise High School in Quthing where I was taught history by two radical teachers Judi Mulqueeny and Ntalenyane Lesoetsa.”
“Those two men had a lot of political influence on me also.”
After completing high school Tyhali enrolled for a teaching qualification at the then National Teachers Training College (NTTC) now called the Lesotho College of Education (LCE) in 1982 and graduated in 1984 with a diploma in secondary education.
It was during his college years that he got to be theoretically developed by one of the college’s lecturers Lenox Mputsoe who further introduced him to Communist Party of Lesotho (CPL) secretary General Mokhafisi Kena who put him on probation for full two years in his party.
“This was in preparation of me to become a communist.”
“Kena inculcated trade unionism and international solidarity in us as students.”
“After completing studies as young communists we were instructed to work within trade unions or form some where they did not exist and that brought about the birth of LTTU in 1990.”
Tyhali recalls that at the helm of LTTU he was with Motleheloa Khaketla, Malimabe Motopela as well as John Oliphant the now LCE Rector.
When asked what led to the formation of LTTU, Tyhali said teachers were poorly paid, did not have pension and their working conditions in general were very poor.
“But there came very good results afterwards as the Teachers Service Commission was established. Teachers’ working conditions were improved and they secured pensions.”
Though there were positive changes brought by LTTU, the union did not have a smooth sail as Tyhali reminisces that it was always looked at as a troublemaker and managements were hostile, “they did not like it”.
He says they had to defend teachers, particularly female teachers who were fired because they rejected sexual advancements by management.
“And our aim was to build teachers and raise their morale in the workplace.”
Tyhali as a trade union activist he has had to live for other people and not for his wife and children.
“And I thank my wife that we are still together until now because she tolerated my activism,” Tyhali says.
“I must say there were critics along the journey of my activism but I had to find a way, so I educate those who had no idea what a trade union is and its importance.”
The well known trade unionist is a high school principal in Mafeteng.
To deepen his political understanding, in 1998 he enrolled with the University of South Africa to study for a Bachelor of Arts in Development Administration and African Politics and in 2004 went back to the same university for and honours degree in African Politics.
“With all this and my time at LTTU, I sharpened my leadership skills and explored other theoretical ideas.”
Tyhali was not always a secretary general of the union but also headed the international relations of LTTU from 1999 to 2009.
Tyhali laughs and says: “I’m on my way to becoming a parliamentarian in 2017.”
However he would not reveal under which party he intends to participate in national politics.
“Just wait and you will see.”
Tyhali is married with two sons.
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