Unionist doubts prospects of job creation


. . . warns 2000 more workers could lose jobs next month


MASERU – As the government finalises the construction of factory shells in Ha Tikoe and Ha Belo, unions express scepticism, viewing this as another protracted process characteristic of every new administration’s promises. May Rathakane, spokesperson for the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), shared these sentiments in a recent interview with Public Eye.

Despite reports of the completed factory shells, Rathakane expressed distrust in the government’s assurances. Previously slated for completion by March 2023, the only outstanding requirements were water and electricity installations to initiate operations. Rathakane pointed out a significant issue with the Ha Tikoe factories, in Ha Thetsane, Maseru, which despite having been completed sometime ago, have not attracted investors. These spaces have transformed into warehouses for equipment storage.

The factory shells are not a very significant issue in addressing the bread and butter issues among the workers, he said. Instead, he warned of the potential closure of another factory in Ha Thetsane by April, affecting 2,000 workers, compounding the already existing challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that led to 14,000 job losses.

Despite efforts to address concerns, Rathakane highlighted the closure of three other factories in Maputsoe, Leribe, leaving many workers unemployed. Efforts to engage with the Minister of Trade, Mokhethi Shelile, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CAFI project yielded promises but no tangible progress. Rathakane expressed disillusionment, saying a scheduled meeting with the minister in February did not take place, leading to a loss of hope in the government’s ability to improve the situation for factory workers in Lesotho.

In response, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Business Development’s Public Relations Officer, ’Mantletse Maile, said while the construction of the factory shells in Ha Tikoe and Ha Belo in Butha-Bothe is complete, the essential electricity and water connections are still pending. She acknowledged that these construction projects began during the previous government’s tenure and were finalised under the current administration.

However, the challenges encountered during the process necessitate further consultation. During the budget speech on February 21 by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Dr. Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, it was reported that the trade and industry ministry had been allocated M599.5 million. Matlanyane emphasised the progress made in completing 16 factory shells in Ha Belo and seven in Ha Tikoe, indicating significant infrastructure improvements.

She highlighted the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC)’s positive response to new investments totalling M696 million, primarily in sectors such as textiles, clothing, stainless steel bars, electrical wiring accessories, leather seat covers, laundry services, fabric dying, and garment manufacturing. Matlanyane projected bright prospects for investments, estimating the creation of over 5,500 jobs.

She underscored the textile and apparel sector’s importance in Lesotho’s economy, contributing one-third of GDP, 43 percent of exports in 2021, and employing over 40,000 workers. Plans for further job creation included generating 8,000 to 10,000 new jobs by 2024–2025, through the completion of 16 factory shells in Ha Belo and improvements to laundry facilities.

Additionally, initiatives supporting free-on-board (FOB) operations were expected to generate 5,000 more jobs through the establishment of two new factories in 2024. However, challenges persist, with the Ha Belo factory in Butha-Bothe facing delays in water and power connections since 2020, creating uncertainties regarding its operational timeline.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *