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Health workers demand review of hardship allowance

triking health workers in Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka, and Qacha’s Nek districts say they will not go back to work until the government increases their hardship allowances. The workers downed tools 10 days ago. The situation has become so dire that MPs from these districts have asked the government to urgently address the health workers’ grievances “before it is too late”.

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Mohlahlobi Busa from Qacha’s Nek constituency told parliament on Monday that “very soon we will be counting dead bodies in these districts” if this matter does not get the urgency it deserves.

The striking workers’ representative, Tanki Ranthimo, told thepost that they decided to go on strike after the Ministries of Health and Public Service “failed to fulfil the government’s promise to increase the hardship allowance from M275 to M1 000”.

“Initially, we had asked for a M5 000 hardship allowance, but we were asked to reconsider and settle for M1 000, with the government saying it was considering all workers,” Ranthimo said.

“We agreed to reconsider, but unfortunately, we accepted an offer that has never been implemented to date,” he said.

Ranthimo complained that the current M275 allowance they get “makes no difference as the inflation rate is also high”.

The hardship allowance was last reviewed in 1993.

Busa pleaded with parliament to discuss the matter urgently and give the government direction “because this is affecting the lives of the people in these areas”.

“The well-being of citizens should be a priority to the government,” Busa said.

“Anything that is seen to be putting the lives of Basotho in danger should be removed,” he said.

“It has been days now without any health services in those areas. We are wondering how sick people are going to cope.”

Busa said Lesotho already has a serious shortage of health facilities “and now the services have stopped in those few facilities we have”.

He said some diseases require “health experts at all times, including TB and HIV/AIDS”.

“We might end up counting dead bodies because of this strike,” he said.

“This is not right, it is a disaster.”

The Matlakeng MP, Dr Mahali Phamotse and leader of Africa Unity Transformation (UAT), said “HIV-positive people need help from the facilities”.

Dr Phamotse said women giving birth should be assisted at health centres by professional staff.

Dr Phamotse said the health issue has exposed the government’s weaknesses.

“This is an example that things are not being handled with the necessary care,” she said.

She said the current administration has a problem “because they do not have experience of running a government”.

“You should admit when you do not know something. Unfortunately, Basotho are the ones suffering.”

Dr Phamotse said the government should start by admitting that they know nothing about how to run a government so that they get help.

“There are many people who know governance (issues) out there. They should be called to help because these people are clueless.”

She said the government should have known about the strike before it happened through its intelligence agents.

Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa, on behalf of the government, thanked Busa for tabling the motion saying the matter “is of public importance and it needs the government’s attention”.

“We are already working on this issue,” Professor Rapapa said.

“Before the end of next week we are hoping to get a solution,” he said.

He admitted that when things are not right health issues need extra attention.

“We will do so.”

Mokhothu Makhalanyane, a Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) backbencher who is also an MP for the Mokhethoaneng constituency, suggested that the House should order the Ministries of Public Service, Finance, and Health to solve the workers’ grievances urgently.

“Those people are asking for an M1 000 allowance as opposed to the M275 that they are getting,” Makhalanyane said.

Makhalanyane said the ministries “should come back to give feedback to parliament” in the next 14 days.

Nkheli Liphoto

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