By Neo Kolane
The retail shops belonging to Chinese nationals in the Ha Thetsane area in Maseru are virtually empty.
The stores were emptied by unknown people during a night raid on those businesses in the midst of the on-going strike that has hit hard on the textile and clothing factories both in Maseru and Maputsoe areas.
The intruders broke into shops at Ha Thetsane and Ha Tsolo, and stole an assortment of items that included food staffs, household gases and cosmetics.
The shops were left ransacked and some burned. But no serious injuries were reported at the time.
It has not been clear how much has been lost in monetary terms by the shop owners.
The factory workers’ unions, a majority of them involved in the textile and clothing firms, started to strike last Friday over belated salary increases dating as far back as April 2020/21. This has fueled anger from their union leadership and the workforce over the wage increase.
Workers demanded a 20 percent increase but later went down to demand a 12 percent hike. But the employers were baying for a five percent increase.
In the midst of the ensuing strike, the cabinet sub-committee minister charged with an oversight over the disputed issues, Motlohi Maliehe pleaded for calm promising that the government was attending to the grievances. He said the committee would work to resolve the labour issues while advising them to return to work.
Maliehe feared the country’s economy would collapse if the labour dispute continued.
But following the raid on the premises, it was all quiet on the next morning as the law enforcement agencies patrolled the area.
The National Allied Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (NACTWU) deputy secretary general T’sepang Makakole has said the unions would continue with the strike until their demand for a higher pay are met.
The average wage of a factory worker is slightly over M2 000.
He said the government, through the ministry of labour has reneged from its agreement to ensure the wage increase for the workers adding that a legal notice for the wage hike had been arranged “but hidden somewhere.”
Again, the military helicopter was seen flying in the area as a measure to conduct patrol after the members of the defence had been dispatched to the area.
theReporter made its way to the industrial site of Ha Thetsane on Wednesday and came across a Chinese retail shop Swansi.
One of the shops employees, Monaheneg Lefu said he telephonically called the guard at the shop to find out what was going on in the vicinity. He was informed there was a group of people who were moving up and down signing and chanting forcing them to alert the police.
Subsequently the guard sent a please call to his mobile and he was alerted of a possible intrusion at the businesses. That triggered Lefu to tip the police.
At the time the police arrived, Lefu continued, 12 gas cylinders were stolen after a break-in on the cage housing the cylinders.
The security camera was broken.
The security guard who spoke on condition of anonymity said he tried to quell the situation by hauling stones to the attacking group but that did not deter them from raiding the shop.
Thabo Telle, one of the employees at the one of the textile factories, said they were determined to go ahead with their strike, saying more was yet to be expected. He did not say what the next move would be.
He accused the state authorities of failing to heed their demands and issue out a legal notice allowing for a hike on their monthly pay.
The spokesperson of the LDF, Sakeng Lekola told the publication that the commissioner of police, Holomo Molibeli contacted the LDF Commander for assistance to quell the situation.
The law allows for a seeking of assistance by the police from the army in time of need in order to discharge their service duties.
A member of the defence force is authorized to exercise the powers of a police officer of the same rank on carrying out duties.
He was clear that the army was also entrusted with duties to protect the property and the people which Lekola said the soldiers would do.