The manufacture of textiles and clothing has become an important growth factor since the turn of the millennium in Lesotho. The textile industry is the largest private employer in the country.
During the first decade of the 2000s, the government succeeded in attracting foreign investors from Taiwan, among others. Investors built textile factories that produce for export, mainly to the United States. The textile industry had more than 50,000 employees, and this was the first time that there were more people working in the manufacturing industry than there were public employees in the country. However, after the settlement of previously favorable trade terms with both the US and the EU, competition from low-wage countries in Asia has increased. The number of employees has decreased slightly, to around 40,000 in 2014. Most people working in the textile industry are women.
Almost all raw material for the textile industry is imported. However, there is some production of wool and mohair.
Other industries are mostly small-scale and process the country’s raw materials. There are, for example, food companies, leather factories, shoe manufacturing and jute factories.
Peacekeepers go home
The regional cooperation organization SADC takes home the peacekeeping force Sapmil that was deployed in Lesotho just a year earlier. Sapmil was deployed in early December 2017 following the murder of the country’s army chief (see September 2018).
The Minister of Defense leaves his post
Defense Minister Sentie Lebona resigns a month after the Minister of Tourism Motlohi Maliehe received the silk cord by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Lebona’s resignation is another sign of tensions within the government and a growing public opinion against Thabane, writes IHS Global Insight. At the same time, Thabane has problems with the judiciary. On September 11, he suspended the Supreme Court Chief Judge Nthomeng Majara on the grounds that the court was not working effectively. However, with the support of her colleagues in the court, Majara succeeded in lifting the suspension and promised to continue working.
Critical minister gets fired
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane dismisses Motlohi Maliehe, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environmental Affairs. Thabane gives no reason for the maneuver, but Maliehe, who is also the chairman of the ruling party, says the parting was expected because a few months earlier he strongly criticized Thabane and his wife Maesaiah. At a speech in May, Maliehe accused Mrs Thabane of creating chaos within the party by “constantly interfering with” the work of ministers and officials, especially in the tendering process. Maliehe accused her of instigating corruption and of violating the Constitution when she tried to get angry ministers deposed.
The opposition calls for the departure of the police minister
Female opposition politicians demand that Prime Minister Thabane dismiss police minister Mampho Mokhele for incompetence. Critics believe the police conducted inadequate investigations into crimes against women, including the murder of Thabane’s ex-wife Lipolelo Thabane who was shot dead in the capital in June 2017. They also point out that the police did not find out what happened to Makarabo Mojakhomo who was arrested for corruption in May 2018 and which disappeared without a trace after two days in police custody.
Defamation laws are condemned
The Supreme Court declares that the laws that criminalize defamation are contrary to the Constitution. The case had been brought to trial by Basildon Peta, owner and editor of Lesotho Times. Peta had been indicted for slander when the magazine published a satirical chronicle of the then army chief Tlali Kamoli. Peta believes that the Prosecution Act violates the right to freedom of expression and the court gives him the right. Another reason for criticizing the law according to the court is that it is so broadly worded that a person can be convicted of slander even though no one other than the one designated is aware of what has been said / written. The court’s ruling is seen by rights activists as a major step forward for freedom of the press in the country.
Majority wants to see union with South Africa
The Afrobarometer Research Institute reports that a majority of Lesothians would like the country to enter into a union with South Africa. According to a survey conducted by the institute, 52 percent want a union, which is 12 percentage points more than in 2014. 80 percent say they would like to emigrate to South Africa. There is also a strong opinion for dual citizenship in general, and in particular for dual citizenship with South Africa. Behind the desire to approach South Africa lies mainly economic considerations.