More than 10,000 Lesotho miners employed in South African gold mines have lost their jobs since the beginning of this
year, and more might follow, further straining Lesotho's struggling economy, sources in the country told IRIN.
"Many of these retrenched mineworkers return to Lesotho where they face bleak employment prospects," Puseletso Salae of the Mineworkers Development Agency (MDA) in Lesotho's capital, Maseru, said. He added that many of the mineworkers were tempted by mining houses to accept retrenchment by offering them relatively large severance packages.
South Africa's mining industry has been hard hit by declining gold prices in world markets and the fact that gold deposits are now located deeper underground, leading to higher mining costs -and increased danger to miners.
Salae said South African mines employed a total of 129,000 Basotho mineworkers in 1989. This fell to 64,000 at the beginning of this year.
According to government figures, the mineworkers remittances contributed to about 67 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 1990. This figure declined to about 33 percent in 1996.
Unemployment among Lesotho's population of about two million is estimated at between 40 and 45 percent.
In his budget speech in March, Finance Minister Kelebone Maope told parliament that a further 17,000 Basotho mineworkers face job losses this year. He said the government, despite being faced with a deteriorating economy, needed to create 40,000 new jobs. He added that about 20,000 people enter the job market every year in an economy that is expected to grow by only 2.2 percent.
Lesotho's economy is based on agriculture, which in 1995 contributed to 10 percent of GDP, a small manufacturing sector and remittances from mineworkers.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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