Basotho firms eye slice of Polihali Dam ‘cake’

Basotho firms eye slice of Polihali Dam ‘cake’

MASERU – BASOTHO and South African companies will equally benefit from the contracts in the construction of the Polihali Dam.
That is the assurance from the water ministers of both countries who spoke of their desire to complete the dam within deadline and budget.
On completion, the dam will almost double the annual water supply to South Africa’s Gauteng province.
The M25 billion project will also have a hydro-power generation station for Lesotho.
But the project has been hobbled by delays.

Lobby groups have also slowed down progress with their own demands on behalf of communities likely to be affected by the dam.
But the loudest noise is coming from Basotho companies that believe they will not get a fair share of the M25 billion-cake.
The companies fret that the most lucrative contracts will be parcelled out to South African companies as happened during the construction of Katse and Mohale dams in the first phase of the project.

The Lesotho government is thus under intense pressure to ensure that South African companies don’t use their financial muscle to sideline local companies that already see themselves as fighting a losing battle against conglomerates. At a joint press conference last Friday the ministers, Lesotho’s Samonyane Ntsekele and South Africa’s Gugile Nkwinti, were eager to allay those fears by insisting that companies from both countries will share opportunities in the project.

“People should not be spectators. They should be involved and should be made to understand what is happening,” Nkwinti said.
“Even South Africans should know about the project. We are hoping to have more interactions with the people.”
He urged Ntsekele to “translate this statement into Sesotho so that every (Lesotho) citizen knows about it”.
“I was told that many Basotho were trained by the projects then left for greener pastures. We must build capacity of Basotho here not only South Africans (so that they can) be able to operate and maintain the infrastructure,” he added.

Ntsekele said there is a draft proposal to review the LHWP Treaty that some quarters in Lesotho view as tilted in South Africa’s favour despite that the water and the infrastructure is in Lesotho.
“There is a draft proposal of the review of the treaty which will be shared between the two countries,” Ntsekele said.
The two ministers said contractors registered in Lesotho and South Africa will equally share the monetary value of all infrastructure works.
They said all procurement processes for the project should foster competitiveness, transparency, cost effectiveness and quality.

The ministers said they instructed officials to develop concrete programmes for capacity building.
Emmanuel Lesoma, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Water Affairs, also assured Basotho companies that they will not lose out.
“Deliberate measures shall be taken to ensure that local Basotho are capacitated to carry out operations and maintenance of the infrastructure post-construction phase,” Lesoma said.
Lesoma stated that the ministers underscored the importance of taking into account lessons learnt during phase one of the LHWP.

This, Lesoma said, means that the concerns of communities affected under phase one are adequately addressed.
“They also confirmed that implementation of phase two will ensure that the lives of the people living within the project area are improved and that people benefit in tangible ways,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is already a court case in the Lesotho’s High Court commercial division, in which local construction companies say the criteria used in adjudicating the contracts were skewed in favour of South African companies.
The local firms say no Lesotho-based company would be eligible to tender, in terms of the criteria used, and this breaches a bilateral treaty between the two countries.

Nkheli Liphoto

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