MASERU – Labor and Employment Minister Moshe Leoma is cracking the whip on foreign workers illegally occupying jobs reserved for locals, without relevant documents to work in Lesotho.
Leoma says his efforts in this exercise are threatened by some ministry officials who take bribes from undocumented expatriates who call in favors such as being released when arrested for non-compliance.
He said challenges posed by foreign workers are not limited to bribery and non-compliance, but also include bad labor practices that frustrate other employees.
“It is easy to tell that the bribery issue has been going on for the longest time, such that people think it’s the law, but it has to stop,” Leoma said.
“Evidently some of my labor inspection officers have fallen for this ill practice and their time is up as well. We have to do things right and put Basotho first.
“Some of the jobs occupied by expatriates can be done by Basotho who even have better qualifications and skills and yet we issue work permits even when applicants do not have any expertise to impart to the locals. It is time for Basotho to shine where they can. It is time for Basotho to take up senior managerial positions where they can instead of being sidelined like it’s always been the case.
“I have started and I should admit that this is going to be quite a long and tedious journey, but it has to be done. One such example is at Vodacom Lesotho. We were made to believe that no Mosotho could take up the CEO position, but we have proved it wrong and have placed our own Mosotho there and we are confident that they can and are doing well.
“This is just the beginning and I am ready to do all that it takes to pave the way for Basotho with qualifications. No permits will be renewed for foreign workers who don’t have any special skills and it should be noted that we have nothing against foreigners at all, but we want to do things right. We are not discriminating against them at all, but we have a problem when they don’t comply and take jobs that can be done by our own locals.”
Further to this, Leoma said he has realized that whenever there are arrests for non-compliance and other ill practices, foreigners are given preferential treatment when in detention even when they are at fault as compared to Basotho.
“Whenever any of these foreigners are nabbed during labor inspection operations, there are always people in authority who give directives for their release before they can even be charged, and this has become a huge problem as it defeats the ends of justice, and sadly the locals are not afforded the same treatment,” said Leoma.
He said this behavior would not dampen his spirits as he is determined to intensify the operation until the end of his tenure or is reshuffled to a different ministry.
“Most foreigners in the country do not have work permits and for those who have, don’t have any special expertise to impart to the locals hence their permits should not be renewed because they are taking jobs that are meant for the locals.
“It is on that basis that I have embarked on localization of senior managerial posts in different organizations because these are posts that are supposed to be manned by Basotho. We don’t have a problem with foreigners being in big positions, but we have a problem when they work without the proper qualifications and don’t comply with our labor laws and don’t even have special skills to give to the locals.”
He said out dated laws are not helping the situation.
“Our labor laws are out dated and their penalties do not correspond with the offences committed, so they really have to be revised as they are not a deterrent at all. People do as they please because they have noticed loop holes in our laws and they do not fear sentencing as they can easily afford to pay for their freedom. It is like they are allowed to get away with murder.” concluded Leoma.
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