Mining employment rot unearthed
Published on August 15, 2014 · No Comments
TEBOHO KHATEBE MOLEFI
BOTHA-BOTHE – Mining companies and expatriate workers continue to flout the country’s labour laws with impunity, while the ministry of labour turns a blind eye and at times grants them fraudulent permits, Public Eye has observed.
This paper last week learned that the department of labour, in the ministry of labour and employment, allowed 12 expatriates employed by Botha-Bothe based Kao Diamond Mine, to work in the country without work permits.
The paper has established that the ministry of labour conducts routine visits to various mining companies to assess working conditions and the state of workers’ contractual requirements, on both local and expatriate workforce.
Employees at Kao revealed to Public Eye that an inspectorate team from the ministry discovered the 12 immigrants working at the mine during one of these routine inspections, said to have taken place in May.
All of foreign employees had been working at the mine without legal documentation as is required by law.
The ministry, however, granted the workers a two-week period to sort their work permits out and the government official warned them to regularize their status which they reportedly failed to do, as was discovered by the inspectorate team on a subsequent visit to the mine.
In a surprise twist of events the 12 emigrants had, as authorisation to work in Lesotho, a letter from the department of labour allowing them to work in Lesotho for two years, despite known legal requirements.
The May 27, 2014, letter which this paper has seen, has been authored by the department’s Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health, and Industrial Relations and addressed to the managing director Consulmet Construction, a company sub-contracted by Storm Mountain Diamonds which operates the mine.
The letter partly reads: “Please be informed that the below-mentioned employees of your company have been granted permission to continue with work so that they can finish the project on time.
“Note, however, that the permission is valid for two years from the date reflected on the stamp.”
The letter was signed by a T Thehisi on behalf of the Labour Commissioner ’Mamohale Matsoso, and bears the stamp of the District Labour Office dated May 27, 2014.
When Public Eye sought the response of the labour ministry on the matter, officials expressed shock and disowned the letter; the ministry said they don’t even have a T Thehisi in their employ.
Spokesperson, Malefetsane Nchaka, told the paper the ministry had sought the assistance of the police in the matter as it was an evident case of fraud.
“We don’t even know the person who is purported to have signed the letter; we are investigating what actually transpired. Secondly, this is an odd case because the ministry only grants workers permission to work here through work-permits and not such letters,” said Nchaka.
Nchaka made an assurance that the labour ministry would get to the bottom of the matter, adding “…we will establish how this fraudulent document was acquired, and from whom.”
According to section 165 of the Labour Code Order of 1992, which provides employment conditions for expatriates in the country “…no employer shall employ any person in Lesotho who is not a citizen of Lesotho and such person shall accept employment in Lesotho unless that person is in possession of a valid certificate of employment (work permit) issued by Labour Commissioner.”
It further provides: “Any employer who employs any person or any person who accepts employment in contradiction of subsection (1) or (2) (noted above) of this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of M1, 000 or six months imprisonment, or both.”
The 12 expatriates are said to be holding positions of site managers, project managers, crane operators, boiler makers, fitters and directors at the mine.
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