Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Street vendors suffer for factory workers’ sins


Mafa Moleko

Thetsane street vendors woke up to a horrific day where they were brutally beaten by the police officers for not hindering or stopping the textile factory workers from striking and burning tyres next to their work places on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, factory workers instigated an industrial action wherein they bemoaned the lack of a government gazette outlining basic wages for employees, and which should incorporate a hike to their earnings.

Mokoena Motsoanakala who works as a street vendor at Ha Thetsane said it was a normal day until the textile workers started burning tires and chanting protest songs in the road near their work places. He explained that the workers blocked the road with rocks and burning car tyres.

He further stated that when the police arrived they were told to clean up the mess caused by the factory workers. “We tried to explain that we are not part of the chanting people but still they beat us” said Motsoanakala.

He added that the beating started when he tried to explain to the police that he was working at that place. He was told that they are being beaten for not stopping those people from striking at the road near their work place.

“The police said that that if we do not rebuke the workers from the burnings of tyres then we should close and go home,” he added

Motsoanakala said that they beat him at the back and his right shoulder is injured from the incident. He said as the street vendors they could not withstand the workers’ fury. He added that this could put their lives in danger of being attacked.

“We had to protect our lives by not saying a word since those people were very furious, what if they attacked us who are we to act as police,” he added.

He said they were told to remove all the tyres and rocks from the road without covering their hands for a better hygiene. He said the items they were forced to remove included diapers, used sanitary pads and many humiliating particles which they had to handpick due to the pain.

Another person who relayed her story of terror is a 23-year-old woman who preferred to comment on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, who said she met up with the police officers on her way from the shops, but was unfortunate enough to receive her share of beatings and hurling of insults.

“They beat me up even when I explained that I am from the shop and I was not striking. When I explained they hurled insults at me, at the same time kicking me with their heavy boots,” she explained.

She said as the community around that area, they now live in fear because they now do not know right from wrong in their going about their business against the police, adding that when the factory workers flee from the wrath and terror of the police they halter scatter throughout the village, now the police officers cannot tell who are the factory workers and who are not.

At the same spot a man who was selling clothes said he was poured with water together with stock and that affected his business that day.

“They poured water on us, so I am selling wet clothes today,” he said.

Meanwhile, streetlights, circles and cars were destroyed during the protest, which though spread in the country’s main industrial areas including Maputsoe and the Railway Station industrial area Maseru, was highlighted in the Thetsane industrial area.

For his part, approached for a comment, police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said whoever feels aggrieved by the actions of the police should report to the local police station. He added that people who are involved in vandalism will be beaten back to order by the police if they do not comply.

On the other hand, addressing the casualties of the strike, Dputy Secretary-General of Unite, a factory workers’ union, Potloloane Monare indicated that preliminary reports indicate that four people from Thetsane and one from Station were reported shot and wounded, while three were arrested.

He added that two kids aged seven and eight from Maputsoe were shot in the incidents of riots that happened in Maputsoe. Monare said they shall evaluate the total number of factory workers that were affected throughout the strike.

In the meantime, one protester who was sitting by the road during the strike was reported and confirmed dead after being run over by a 22-wheel-truck.  According to Monare, the reports show that the worker from C&Y was just sitting by the road when a truck run him over.

“Reports and a trending video show that this man was not chanting but sitting by the side of the road when the truck driver ran him over and did not even stop. Now the man is said to be dead,” he said.

He explained also that following the incidents, on Wednesday the workers’ unions had a meeting with the Cabinet sub-committee which was formed on May 11 to look into issues of the 2020/21 minimum wages. The meeting was later dismissed with an agreement that the gazette which was supposed to have been be released in April 2020, shall be released on Monday.

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