THE Minister of Labour and Employment, Keketso Rantšo, has echoed legendary 19th century German philosopher and communist, Karl Marx, in calling on the working class to set aside their differences and unite for their common good.
In his book, The Communist Manifesto which was published in 1848, Marx rallied workers with the famous lines, “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains”.
And in an interview with the Sunday Express ahead of next Wednesday’s Workers’ Day commemorations, Ms Rantšo echoed Marx, saying it was time Basotho workers united and set aside their differences for their own good.
Workers’ Day is commemorated annually on 1 May and various activities are held to promote the rights and welfare of workers all over the world.
Speaking ahead of Workers’ Day, Ms Rantšo said a united workforce made her job as minister much easier as she would know exactly what their expectations were, enabling her to make informed decisions on their behalf.
“There is a Sesotho adage that says ‘kopano ke matla,’ (unity is power) and it is relevant to the working class because when workers are not organized their grievances are not loud enough to be heard. It is true that unity is power and it is my dream to see our working class organised and speaking in one audible voice for their rights.
“So long as workers are divided by petty politics, employers will always take advantage of them and their situation will remain unchanged. The same goes for politicians. Even we politicians will take advantage of you (workers) and make promises which we cannot fulfill just because we want power.
“It is therefore high time that workers know and note their worth in shaping the political and economic landscape of Lesotho as this is the only country that they have and should therefore cherish.
“Last year I had to attend various events to commemorate Workers’ Day but it wasn’t very easy for me. I urged workers to put their differences aside for their own good so as to have an amplified voice and hopefully they have heeded my call.
“It is my dream to see a unified working class and it my dream to see workers getting the working minimum wage they have always demanded but when they are divided it is not easy for them to be heard,” said Ms Rantšo.
She said the government was always ready to listen to the grievances of the workers but their divisions made it impossible to make informed decisions without sidelining some of them.
“There is simply no reason that there are still people who are working in hazardous places when they are working to improve the economy of this country. It is also very shameful that there are some employers who still expect people to work even on public holidays.
“This has gone on for far too long and it has become the norm that even on public holidays, employers don’t afford their employees a chance to commemorate such days. It is not right and it is modern day slavery.
“Employers should respect their employees and the laws of this country as couched in the Labour Code.
“This year is a centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and we have to take time to reflect on the challenges we have had in the past, not to repeat the same mistakes but to learn from them and work on a successful future,” Ms Rantšo said.
On his part, the secretary general of the National Clothing and Textile Workers Union (NACTWU), Sam Mokhele, said all workers’ unions will celebrate this year Workers’ Day in the Mantsopa Municipality in neighboring South Africa.
“We have invited our minister (Ms Rantšo) to join us on our journey to work as a unit as we believe and have witnessed that indeed, united we stand and divided we fall. We have also pleaded with her to organise a free pass at the borders with our South African counterparts for those who don’t have travelling documents,” said Mr Mokhele.
Mr Mokhele’s sentiments were echoed by the secretary general of the Alliance of Lesotho Trade Unions (ALTU), Tšeliso Ramochela, said to uniting with other workers unions.
“We hope that this is the end of us working in silos. We are hopeful that from this year onwards we shall be working as one strong unit,” Mr Ramochela said.