Youth in Maseru took to the streets last week Friday, protesting about the high unemployment rate and high gender-based violence. They also called for the government to end nepotism and political color recruitment into the public service.
However, the protest ended in tears, leaving scores of picketers injured and 11 of them in custody as police brutality took center stage. A news reporter was also arrested during the melee, accused of flouting COVID-19 regulations.
The detained protesters spent the entire weekend in police custody and appeared on Monday before Maseru Magistrate’s Court where they were subsequently released on free bail. But the youth are planning a mother of all protests in a continued effort to force the government to address their grievances.
On Monday, following the release of the detained protesters, some members of parliament expressed their disappointment at the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Democratic Congress (DC) led coalition government on how it handled the Friday youth protest.
While they admitted that picketers might not have followed due process to stage their protest, it was equally unlawful, they argued that police used excessive force to disperse them.
They further contended that the government should have accepted the petition nonetheless, as a sign that it fully understands the bewildering situation facing the youth of this country. In pledging their support, the MPs emphasized the importance of leveling the playing field for the youth to overcome shocking unemployment figures. “There is nothing as important as working together to fight youth unemployment in the country because youth form a bigger part of the economy.
“As parliamentarians, we may have structures in place to address youth unemployment but the current government does not have a similar goal as us. The current economic system is not working because it benefits just a few people while the rest are suffering,” former Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader, Chief Joang Molapo told a media briefing on Monday.
Lesotho continues to experience high rates of unemployment, estimated at 32.8 percent but women and youth are most affected according to the Bureau of Statistics. Unemployment among women is estimated at a shocking 39.7 percent and 32.3 percent for youth. Youth in Lesotho occupy 39.6 of the total population.
The majority of the working population, 38.4 percent are engaged in occupations that consist of simple and routine tasks that require the use of hand-held tools and physical effort.