MPs, Principal Chiefs square up



MASERU –  Tempers flew high at the Lesotho Lowlands Water Development Project II Compensation Policy workshop for Members of Parliament (MPs) and Principal Chiefs on Wednesday this week, with some legislators complaining that households in their areas have not been covered by the project.

The MPs were particularly concerned that there are areas where the project will run through yet communities in the areas will not be directly benefiting. The project says theirs is to ensure that the water is brought closer to people while Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) and government’s department of Rural Water Supply will still need to continue serving communities.

Mpharane constituency MP, Phuthuhelo Mafereka, and Molefi Phamotse of Likhoele both argued that while the project runs through their constituencies, it is evident that most villages in their constituencies will not directly benefit. Phamotse cited the Ha Lempetje and Makopela villages in Likhoele, Mafeteng, which he said are currently without water and are affected most by drought.

Mafereka swore that the project will not pass through Mpharane before villagers in the area benefit directly from the project.  “The project will not pass through Mpharane, the community in Mpharane will not allow a project that does not benefit them to pass through their area,” he said. Mafereka added “I am not an expert but I am urging the project to reconsider their decisions and conduct a new study. Should it head to my call, they will realize that a bigger tank placed around Mpharane will be able to supply more villages.”

The Lesotho Lowlands Water Development Project II is a scheme supporting water supply and infrastructure investments so as to address water security challenges and meet water demands in the lowlands. It is set to commence in November this year while the large scale will commence in January 2021 until 2024.

The project will initially operate in the four districts divided in Zones 2  and 3 covering Hlotse and Maputsoe, in Leribe, while Zone 6 and 7 covers Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng districts. It is mandated to install water delivery pipelines running for over 600 kilometers.

In its study, the project has found that 267 households in Zones 2 and 3 as well as 274 households in zones 6 and 7 will be affected by the project activities. On that score, it has come up with a draft compensation policy and is engaging different stakeholders to share their views about the policy.

Wednesday was for the MPs and Principal Chiefs who did not object to any part of the draft policy but advised that the project be more consultative and that strong monitoring and evaluations mechanisms be put in Place.

Development Planning Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, noted during discussions that Lesotho has had many unsuccessful projects because of the weak monitoring and evaluation of projects and thereby advised the project to strengthen their monitoring department.

As a community based project, he said, it would be wise to use councilors and area chiefs as part of the monitoring and evaluation. He also urged that water from the project be used for irrigation purposes so as to feed the nation. “COVID-19 has taught us that we need to produce our own food, it would be very wise to use this water for irrigation purposes so as to improve food production,” he said.

For his part, former water minister and Tsikoane constituency MP, Samonyane Ntsekele, said the project should frequently update communities from where they will be working to understand their work and mandate well. He said he had gathered that not all people understand how the project operates, referring to Tsikoane.

Compensation will be guided by the constitution and Land Act of 2010, particularly sections 49 and 51 which both emphasize the importance of negotiation and agreement before acquisition. Arable land, trees, structures, businesses, undeveloped sides, graves and communal assets are some of the items to be compensated.

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