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Trade unions threaten further strike

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By Caswell Tlali

MASERU — “We are bracing ourselves for an even bigger demonstration that will make the one that happened last Monday look like child’s play if Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili does not address concerns by Monday (tomorrow).”
That is the warning from Daniel Maraisane, the secretary general of the Lesotho Congress of Democratic Unions.
Maraisane leads a group of trade unions and associations that organised a three-day strike a fortnight ago and a huge march last Monday to force the government to deal with a medley of grievances that include wages in the textile unions, youth empowerment and taxi fares.
What started as a purely labour issue is now threatening to degenerate into a full-blown crisis as more groups add their complaints to the long list of grievances.
Business organisations are demanding better opportunities while the youths want the government to reverse its decision to reduce the number of students it sponsors for tertiary education.
Taxi operators want the government to review fares by 100 percent. The coalition submitted their “letter of demands” during last Monday’s march that attracted nearly 10 000 people.
They gave Mosisili until tomorrow to address their concerns.
Maraisane told the Sunday Express last night that if the prime minister does not respond by end of day tomorrow the government must brace itself for a bigger march.
“All the unions and organisations involved will meet on Monday afternoon to decide the way forward,” Maraisane said.
“This time the strike will be bigger. We will call on other organisations to be involved.”
What frustrates the unions, Maraisane said, is that the prime minister “does not seem interested in dialogue”.
“He keeps referring us back to his ministers who have failed to address our problems. We are telling him that his ministers don’t want to solve our problems but he insists that we must go back to those same people.”
“We want him to talk to us because his ministers have failed to deal with the problems. That is what happened when we had the first march on May 5.
He told us to go back to the ministry. We went back to the ministers who still failed to address the issues,” Maraisane said.
During the march on Monday the coalition sent a six-man delegation to hand the letter of grievances to Mosisili.
Mosisili sent the minister in his office, Motloheloa Phooko, to meet the delegation outside his Qhobosheaneng offices.
But the delegation sent Phooko back insisting they wanted to meet Mosisili personally.
About 15 minutes later Phooko came back in the company of Government Secretary Tlohang Sekhamane but the delegation would have none of it.
They remained adamant that they would only give their letter to Mosisili.
In a pleading voice Phooko told the delegation that he was trustworthy and he would deliver their letter to Mosisili as he did in May during their first protest march.
Lebohang Moea, one of the delegates from the Maseru Region Taxi Operators Association (MRTO), told Phooko that they did not have any problem with him as a person but they wanted Mosisili because they felt that he was ignoring their calls for talks.
“The Prime Minister is the one we want to meet and talk to,” Moea added.
Mokete Jonase, the chairperson of the coalition, told Phooko to tell the prime minister that the protestors wanted to talk to him directly.
“Tell the Prime Minister that the people who are marching outside say they have put him where he is and now they demand that he talks to them.”
The delegation eventually read the brief letter written to Mosisili before handing it to Phooko.
Textile workers want the government to review the minimum wage from M720 to M2 020 per month.
The coalition is also calling on government to deal with corruption which they say is rampant in the civil service.

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