. . . government compensates 150 irate households
MASERU – Beginning next month the Ha Ramarothole community in Mafeteng is expecting to start receiving their share of the M23 million compensation for land government grabbed for construction of a solar power station in the area.
About 150 residents of the village have stalled the construction of the multi-million Maloti solar power project. This project consists of two generation sets, one owned and operated by the government (70MW). It is the first of its kind in the country.
The second set is a private concession, Independent Power Producer (IPP), built and operated by a US-based company 1Power (20MW), for which government has contracted a loan with the Eximbank of China amounting to M1.1 billion to finance the construction of the works earmarked for this station.
But the villagers lost patience with delayed compensation for their fields.
Following inquiries by Public Eye, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Themba Sopeng, this week assured this publication that his ministry has already received warranty from the finance ministry that the money for the project is available for use and that compensation to the affected community can commence.
Sopeng said all beneficiaries have signed contracts and submitted their banking details, noting that the payment process is currently underway at the finance ministry of finance.
As soon as the verification process is complete the money will be forwarded to the relevant bank to be paid into beneficiaries’ accounts.
The compensation process, Sopeng claimed, started around September of last year but was stopped by the Principal Chief of Likhoele, Lerotholi Seeiso, who had not been part of the evaluation process and sought a chance to re-evaluate the process.
Those developments, he claims, delayed the entire payment process.
He said, however, the reassessment revealed that some people were claiming compensation for fields that did not belong to them. Sopeng said it was only around April when all the beneficiaries agreed on the compensation rates and signed their contracts.
He further noted that the community agreed that the project should continue while the ministry is working on compensating them.
“With these noted, we learned with dismay that Ha Ramarothole community has complains concerning their compensation and were disrupting the project. On hearing this, I and the Minister of Energy visited the community and clarified to them that the compensation process is ongoing.
“The community was misinformed and their concern was that the ministry will take long to pay them if payment is done individually against the former agreement that they would be paid collectively,” he said.
Sopeng further noted that it was just misinformation that caused the confusion, and that the payment process and method will not affect the community in any way.
This comes after an impatient Ha Ramarothole community resorted to blocking the roads so that no movement from and to the site takes place.
Ha Ramarothole area Chief, Konyana Ramarothole, said the community expected their compensation before construction could start but that did not happen.
He said the government, through the Ministry of Energy, has been postponing payment to the community and, as a result, they have become impatient.
Ramarothole also said the community does not have any problems with the project and highly appreciates it, pointing out that the only problem is the compensation process that is taking too long.
He confirmed that Minister of Energy, Mohapi Mohapinyane, visited the area and informed the aggrieved community that money meant to compensate them is available and they will receive it within four weeks.
He, however, noted that due to numerous disappointments that the community experienced from the ministry, they do not trust that they will indeed be paid in a month’s time.