‘Withholding water royalties a breach of Treaty’

MAMELLO SEBATANE

MASERU – The South Africa-based Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) has been served with a Writ of Execution by the High Court of South Africa to stop the processing of monthly payments for water royalties to Lesotho.

The TCTA was originally established as a special purpose vehicle to fulfil South Africa’s treaty obligations in respect of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), therefore, it is in possession of all pertinent documentation.

Government of Lesotho has learned of these events and expressed its shock as the agreement is between Lesotho and South Africa, making TCTA only a facilitator and a third party in the transfer of royalties.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of Lesotho has, therefore, written to the High Commission of South Africa in honour of the Treaty between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa (Parties of the Treaty) of October 24, 1986.

In the letter, the ministry highlighted Article 6 (8) of the Treaty which states that interruption of the flow of water to South Africa or non-payment of the Royalties rightly due to the Government of Lesotho is a serious breach of the Treaty by either party.

According to recent reports the TCTA managed to raise just over M15 billion ($1.09 billion) in capital markets to continue construction of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), the minister of water and sanitation said.

The state-owned TCTA needed guarantees from the National Treasury before it could raise the private funding for the project which is designed to improve water access for millions of people in South Africa’s economic heartland in Gauteng province.

“So, we have the resources, we have the guarantees and now we can assure you that we will be hard at work to provide water security,” South African water minister Lindiwe Sisulu told the country’s lawmakers.

In March the TCTA said delays by the treasury, which were due to tightening conditions for support for state-owned entities, were putting pressure on the TCTA as it looked to raise M33 billion in 2021.

Years of hot weather in water-scarce South Africa, coupled with a lack of investment and inadequate maintenance of infrastructure has led to increasing dependence on the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho to augment water supplies to Africa’s most industrialised country.

The $1 billion raised with allow for the completion of phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands water project, which involves the construction of a series of dams, Sisulu said. She added that the TCTA has projects worth R68 billion designed to increase water delivery across the country’s major cities.

The LHWP is the largest bi-national infrastructure project between Lesotho and South Africa and involves the construction of an intricate network of tunnels and dams to divert water from the mountains of Lesotho to South Africa.

It will provide water for South Africa and money and hydroelectricity for Lesotho. While the TCTA, in South Africa, is responsible for tunnelling, delivery, integration and flow control of water into the Ash River outfall in South African territory.

 

 

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