‘Compensation policy drains affected communities’


. . . association blasts LHDA


MASERU – The Policy Environmental Justice & Water Resources Advocacy (PEWA), an association formed by communities affected by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP Phase 1 and 2), have questioned the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) Compensation policy of 1997. PEWA has said the policy does not address all their requests and has put them in an impoverished state. The association’s mandate is to keep a watchful eye on LHDA policies, the extractive industries, land conservation, dams, water and mining.

Speaking during a press briefing held by the association this week, PEWA President Mohato Morokole said it has been 25 years since communities from Katse and Mohale who are affected by the project have been relocated yet they have been facing numerous problems. LHDA has established a 10 year strategy but what surprises them is that they as the people affected were not included, therefore Morokole said, without them as stakeholders the strategy will not work.

Morokole narrated that in 1995 when they heard that there was going to be resettlement of the communities of Mohale due to the construction of Mohale dam, Hunting Consultant 4 (HC4) Joint Venture from South Africa was commissioned by LHDA to conduct a study of the Mohale Dam resettlement and development programme. That company, he said, duly noted the community’s views about how they wanted to be compensated.

“We then told the company that we believe it would be wise if the LHDA would assist in our children’s education, and also provide compensation and development of a life-time as it is important for two parties to communicate where property of the other is involved. “In 1996 the report of our entire list of requests was compiled and then the company said it was going back to South Africa therefore we would be given the full detailed report by the LHDA.

“However, when the report came back to us, some of the things we had requested were not included and we asked LHDA to revise the report to match what we had asked for. We anticipated that the report would come back containing the missing information. LHDA made a1997 compensation policy that we were not part of, in which they have turned things around and finalised compensation the way they wanted. When the policy came, our war between LHDA started as they had said their compensation will only last 50 years and not a lifetime as we had hoped,” he said.

Morokole said they lived in harmony before they were relocated and had enough food for their families because of yearly harvests from their fields. Now they no longer have fields from which to subsist while the compensation, which comes once a year, is also too little to sustain them. He also mentions that even the settlement that they were moved to is not satisfactory and their children can no longer go to school. Many parents have been forced to go to South Africa in search of a better life, leaving children practically on their own.

“These policies are not benefitting us in any way but they are only benefitting the LHDA. We are trying by all means to come together as Mohale, Katse and Polihali to put an end to this hunger. I am one of the people who were relocated from Ha Mohale to Ha Makhalanyane and LHDA relocated us for their own benefit because we did not sign any kind of contract with them in terms of compensation. “We have fought very hard for the compensation issue yet nothing has come out of it to date,” he said.

On the other hand, Mothibeli Manase is also among the people affected by the project and was relocated from Molika-liko, Mohale to Thetsane, Ha Tsolo. He said they are facing hunger as they used to live off fields at Molika-liko but now it is difficult for them to survive without fields for cropping as the compensation is too little for them.

Contacted for comment, LHDA Public Relations Manager Mpho Brown said the issue sounds like issues that they have addressed extensively in the past, and most recently at the Stakeholders Conference which they held on March 26 with all the communities represented as well as the week beginning March 14 to 22 where they visited all the communities in those areas to discuss issues specific to them.

In comparison, Medigrow a cannabis company founded by Basotho besides securing amazing employment opportunities, it also improved sanitary facilities in homes of the host communities. Many watchers could not help but marvel at the high standards of social responsibility displayed by Medigrow when it started operating in Thaba Tseka around 2019.

Many put this down to the fact that this was a home-grown Basotho-owned company which suggests the directors readily appreciate the need to boost livelihoods in Lesotho, many embraced the promise of a better life for poor communities and wondered if Medigrow’s approach couldn’t be used as a yardstick to gauge commitment by other investors.

Not only did this company’s entry into this sleepy village of Ha Marakabei change the landscape to modernity by building road infrastructure, but there were testimonies by locals employed in the new venture illustrating a novel corporate social investment.

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