Tšepong nurses’ sacking, COSATU outraged 




MASERU – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has issued a solidarity statement expressing indignation towards the dismissal last week of 346 mostly specialist nurses at the country only tertiary healthcare facility, Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) in Maseru.

The nurses were fired with immediate effect on Friday, March 12, following a long-drawn-out dispute over salaries.

The health workers had been on strike to press for salaries equivalent to their counterparts in government and other private institutions.

The Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) argues that the QMMH nurses are paid about M9 000 monthly, at least M4 000 less than their counterparts in other government-run hospitals, who reportedly pocket at least M13 000 each month.

COSATU notes that while the strike was crippling the already ailing Lesotho health sector, which faced a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections after Christmas “the sackings will have a dire effect on the already strained healthcare system, filtering additional strain into bordering South Africa as well.”

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lesotho’s health system had struggled under high rates of tuberculosis, HIV, and AIDS-related illnesses.

“These expulsions will have a disastrous effect on the health system, given that Lesotho’s hospitals were already understaffed,” said the union’s International Secretary, Sonia Mabunda-Kaziboni, in the statement issued yesterday.

COSATU says this is an unacceptable and blatant ill-treatment of workers, and demands the nurses’ immediate reinstatement.

“Workers cannot lose their jobs and subsequently their livelihood because of demanding better salaries. The Federation condemns the Lesotho government for its disregard of the working people’s right to be heard.”

They further we call on all “our Comrades and friends in the region to offer solidarity and support to the dismissed workers and ensure that this employer does not undermine workers’ right to refuse paltry salaries during these trying times. Dismissing them does not solve the problem.”

The statement follows hot on the heels of the Lesotho government’s termination of its relationship with the Tšepong Consortium, engaged in a public private partnership (PPP) to rebuild the country’s failing network of public health facilities.

The separation was announced by health minister, Semano Sekatle in a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon.


He said that the nursing staff that has recently been dismissed at the hospital would be reinstated.

Sekatle added that the government will partner with other Basotho owned companies working at Tšepong to figure out a way forward to continue providing healthcare services to the public.

“The government is working on ensuring all the health workers retrenched get their jobs back and also the government will engage in a discussion with Basotho companies working at Tšepong to find a way forward in offering Basotho good health services,” the health minister added.

The dismissal of the nursing staff at the hospital became the last straw in the uneasy relations between government, the hospital as well as its workforce.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) on Monday also voiced extreme concern at the reckless conduct of the Tšepong management in handling the dispute, declaring its full support of its sister organisation in the country, the LNA, in calling for the implementation of a salary structure in Lesotho.

“This will bring labour peace and a positive environment for many nurses who are aggrieved.”

DENOSA called on the Netcare Group, which forms part of the conglomerate of companies running Tšepong, to do in Lesotho as it does in South Africa because its hospitals have a salary structure that is in place, warning that this will avert crisis.

The QMMH project cost approximately US$100 million (over M1.5 billion) and is financed through a combination of commercial financing by the Development Bank of Southern Africa, a government capital contribution and private equity failing to reach an agreement.

Opened in 2011, QMMH is run by the Tšepong Consortium and manages a health network that provides services to approximately 375 000 outpatients and 23 000 in-patients.

The consortium is headed by South Africa’s Netcare together with local investors and healthcare providers in an 18-year contract that commenced in February 2009.

Tšepong designed, constructed, partially financed, and now operates this network of public health facilities that includes QMMH as well as three expanded primary health care clinics in Maseru.

The consortium comprises five companies, namely Netcare Healthcare Group and Afri’nnai of South Africa, and Excel Health, Women Investment, and D10 Investments of Lesotho.

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