MASERU-Lesotho’s Consul General , Selimo Thabane has appealed to the South African Government to give Basotho another chance to apply for South African work permits.
Mr Thabane said this in an exclusive interview with Lesotho Times, following violent clashes that took place between Basotho seasonal workers and some local residents in Hankey, Eastern Cape.
He said some of the Basotho nationals who were working at the farms at the time of the clashes did not have legal documents, while those who had, had overstayed their days and very few had work permits.
Worried about Basotho’s behavior which had triggered the clashes in the sister country, he said this could have not happened if only they had remembered that they were foreigners and were expected to abide by the laws of that country.
“The only one thing which Basotho can take pride in, is to know that their employers are keen of them due to their hard work. As it is their employers openly admit that the production has decreased rapidly, thus plunging them into loss.
“We know that sometimes Basotho are treated unfairly at their places of work and can’s even report because they are there illegally, but they have us to report to instead of taking the law into their hands.
“I am really worried with the way Basotho are behaving and am convinced that if they carry on in this fashion, they might never be able to work anywhere because they will be a threat. What happened in Hankey shouldn’t have happened at all. Now so many innocent people have lost their jobs just because of one person who could not control their temper.
“Our people have o got to learn how to accommodate other people ad put up with them even if it’s unbearable. They need those jobs more than anything.”
Mr Thabane further expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the South African authorities, employers and the business community who aided Basotho and rescued them from a danger zone when their lives were at risk.
“By the time we got to Hankey our people were already taken to safe places and were being catered for and it’s all thanks to the very South Africans whom some of our people are killing and it’s not right,” stated Thabane.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s office Mr Likopo Mahase told this publication that of the 400 seasonal workers forcefully evicted from their informal settlement.
The clashes started on Wednesday last week and reached peak over the weekend leaving three people dead.
He said the clashes between local residents and migrant workers mostly from Lesotho were sparked by the murders of two people from Centerton, another township in Hankey in the wee hours of Wednesday 29 May at a shebeen. The duo was stabbed and killed by a Mosotho man who then ran away to a settlement where most Basotho stay, causing the local residents to retaliate.
“The conflict appears to have a racial element as the permanent residents of Hankey are Xhosa and Basotho are feared to be encroaching on their territory as they have started settling among them,” Mahase said.
Several shacks at the Mountainview informal settlement, home to many migrant workers, were said to have been torched and looted by the angry locals who had marched to the area predominantly occupied by farm workers from Lesotho and tried to attack but met with great resistance as Basotho pelted them with stones.
Police vehicles were also stoned during the clashes.
A Mosotho man from Malimong Ha Mapeshoane who had gone to find a job was also killed caught in the cross fire as the fight had also gone to the taxi ranks, he was killed by angry locals who heard that he spoke Sesotho.
Mr Mahase said on Saturday he went on the evacuation mission with the deputy foreign minister and three buses to transport the farm workers back home. They were warmly welcomed by the Kouga Municipality Mayor and deputy who were already taking care of those who had been evicted.
“This is a xenophobic attack because we have learnt from police that there are always clashes but never have they reached this height. The bone of contention here is that Basotho have started making notable strides and acquiring properties, including rental houses and cars, while the coloreds go on a drinking binge and are forced to rent out houses from their Basotho counterparts.
“These are attacks emanating from pure jealousy and not the killings as it is now being said because not only Basotho were evicted. Other nationals from Zimbabwe and those coming from Transkei and the Free State were also evicted.
“We got them temporary passports and got them tested for Covid 19 where only one tested positive. We ensured that they all got transport to their respective homes.
“73 of them were from Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek -19, Mafeteng six, Maseru -eight, Berea – 54, Leribe- three, Thaba-Tseka -17, Qacha’s Nek-one. They also had 19 children with them,” Mr Mahase stated.
He said some Basotho said they were staying behind to find jobs elsewhere again and they know that there are still some who might have to be fetched back home as well.