Minister says ‘third force’ behind student strikes

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MASERU — The Minister of Education and Training, Dr ‘Mamphono Khaketla  has told parliament that there is a third force behind the recent strikes by college and university students over delayed allowances by the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).
In a statement to brief parliament on the events which led to the violence that culminated in a death of a student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) last Thursday, Khaketla said “it does not require us to stretch our imagination far to conclude that there is a third force orchestrating this string of strikes”.
A student died and 14 others were injured in a wave of violence that hit NUL as students went on the rampage protesting against the NMDS which they accused of delaying their allowances.
“I wish to strongly condemn this kind of behaviour with its attendant violence that results in the loss of lives and damage to property,” Khaketla said.
“This will not be tolerated. This is disheartening because higher education institutions are supposed to mould future leaders who can be entrusted with transformation of the country’s economy.”
The minister said there seems to be a pattern of synchronised students’ protests involving students in local higher education institutions as well as those in the Republic of South Africa.
“Students from both the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology were also on national TV petitioning the National Manpower Development Secretariat,” the minister said.
She however admitted that there were some “gaps’ in the administration of student bursaries.
“Nonetheless, we as the government, accept that there are gaps in our administration of student bursaries.
“Both Ministries of Education and Training and Finance and Development Planning are working together to find a lasting solution to this now yearly occurrence. It is our fervent hope that this will not occur again.” 
ABC Member of Parliament, Macaefa Billy, asked the minister why she talked about a “third force” when police reports indicated that the main cause of the strike was the delay in giving students their allowances.
He said the suspicion of a “third force” by the minister without having made some investigation had the potential to sow some confusion by politicising the issue. 
Khaketla responded that is was her opinion that there is something influencing the students to strike. 
“No sir, the honourable member is talking about police matters. I speak as a Minister of Education. Actually, this is my opinion.”
“Whenever the NUL demonstrations stopped, a new one starts as if there is a synchronisation. Sir, you will remember that the late Adam Pholoana Lekhoaba said he was going to universities and institutions to influence the issue.” 
Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) leader Vincent Malebo asked the minister whether the injured students will be compensated if investigations reveal that there were mistakes made.
“Sir, my answer is very brief and I am not a foreteller in these matters. I will have to wait and see who is, that will be instructed or ordered and by whom to compensate,” Khaketla replied.
 “It is only after we have received recommendations or conclusions from investigations done by investigators or the police that, we can take further action.
“It is very unfortunate I cannot respond to that question at this moment,” Khaketla said.
The minister expressed condolences and regret at the death of the student who died.

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