More than 120 000 Basotho migrant workers came home from neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa, during the end of year holidays but now face difficulties when they have to return to their respective workplaces.
When they came home, those whose passports had expired within the lockdown period in South Africa were given a free pass and allowed into Lesotho. But now, when they have to return to work, they are forced to produce all the proper documentation that includes valid passports, COVID-19 certificates and exemption permits.
Most of them were not been able to produce those documents and were forced to return home. Some resorted to border jumping despite the dangers of such undertaking. In an attempt to cross the perilous Caledon River (Mohokare), several deaths have been reported to date.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed in a brief interview with Metro on Wednesday that 14 people went missing after they attempted to cross into Lesotho through the river. “So far we have 14 people that were reported to be missing. Nine of them have since been found dead while the other five are still missing.” Mopeli said.
Other people were arrested by the South African police immediately after crossing into that country through illegal means. That means jobs are in jeopardy. Most of these people do this because there are no jobs in Lesotho, while the grass looks greener on the other side.
The lucrative South African economy and better prospects for employment lead foreign nationals from all neighbouring states to flock into that country. On Wednesday the Lesotho Migrant Workers Association expressed dissatisfaction at the way the country is dealing with this matter, calling for a free movement between Lesotho and South Africa.
“We are saddened by the way the Ministry of Home Affairs is dealing with the matter. Many people will not be able to return to SA and will therefore lose their jobs.
“Yes, they did a good thing by allowing all the people to come home for the December holidays, but at the same time, people should have been made aware of the consequences they could face when they wanted to return to work,” said the Executive Director of the Lesotho Migrant Workers Association Lerato Nkhetše, in an interview with Metro on Wednesday.
Mr Nkhetše revealed that close to 4 223 people attempted to cross back into South Africa recently at Maseru border post and 761 of them had no COVID-19 certificates and were as a result tested by the South African officials. He said 70 of them were forced to return home after testing positive of the pandemic.