Shelile pledges to restore 2000 jobs lost to Covid-19



MASERU – The Minister of Trade, Industry, and Small Businesses, Mokhethi Shelile says 2000 jobs lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will be restored by January 2024. Shelile made the pronouncement in Parliament last Thursday during a question and answer session while responding to a question by Alliance of Democrats (AD) MP, ’Maboiketlo Maliehe, who had asked the minister to shed light on how soon the closed factories in the Thetsane area will be opened for residents and the rest of the people who were employed to make a living again.

Most of these factories closed as a result of COVID-19. As the pandemic hit, it took many businesses down, and the most impacted were the textile industries, with factories closing down and thousands of Basotho losing their jobs.

In 2003, about 53 000 Basotho were employed in factories, but the number fell due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector now employs less than 25 000 people. Some of the factories that closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic include Glory International Garments, Tikoe Industrial, and C&Y Garments, a subsidiary of Nien Hsing Textiles Group, to name a few.

Glory International closed in March 2020, while C&Y closed shop in December 2021. Both factories retrenched 3,000 and 2,600 workers, respectively. The secretary general of Lentsoe la Sechaba, Monaheng Mokaoane told Public Eye in an interview this week that Global International Garments seems to be experiencing challenges as it laid off employees due to a lack of orders but re-opened in January this year.

He said, however, that five months later, the factory seemed to be struggling yet again. Mokaoane also explained that while the work force in factories was around 45 000 in the past years, it has gone down to 30 000 after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said most factories that produce shirts are back in operation now, adding that most of the workers who were retrenched have been called back to work. Mokaoane said with the kind of orders the factories have, they will last until February 2024, and with the heavy load due to that, workers will likely delay to go on Christmas holidays this year. He noted that most factories owned by Taiwanese, which had reduced working days for employees, are now back to working five days, which seems like a positive start after struggling for months.

He added that Precitec had encountered problems over the last few years, but the matter is being solved now, which will allow workers to go back to work. According to Mokaoane, one of the firms still struggling is Hippo Knitting Garments, as well as other factories that produce jeans. He said those companies employ less than 500 workers that may be retrenched and may also close shops if their challenges are not solved by next year.

Shelile also told the National Assembly that his ministry is working tirelessly to ensure that closed factories are reopened in order to generate jobs for Basotho. He noted that there had been a huge impact on the textile industry, with costs being lifted and investors leaving some host countries. He further indicated that the ministry will introduce a new project called the Textile Industry Revitalization Programme as a step towards revitalising the manufacturing export sector in Lesotho.

He added that the government has instructed the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) to allocate M10 million to factories, especially in cut, make, trim (CMT) manufacturing. “By January 2024, 2000 jobs will be retained with the kind of orders the factories have, and workers will be back to work within a year and a half.

“Also, to add more employment, the Ha Belo factories in Butha-Buthe are on the verge of completion, with the buildings completed. The only thing left is the installation of electricity and water, and by March 2024, they will be opened,” he indicated.

The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Dr. Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane said the LNDC, is being capacitated to revitalise the garment and textile industry, adding that discussions between buyers and the industry were being facilitated when the mid-term budget review was presented on Wednesday last week.

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