Lesotho wants section of water treaty reviewed

Lesotho wants section of water treaty reviewed

Justice Maqelepo

MASERU

WATER Affairs Principal Secretary Khomoatsana Tau says the government wants a section of the 1986 water treaty reviewed to allow it to influence the appointment of board members of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA).

Tau made the remarks while addressing the Senate’s Petitions Committee last Thursday.

He was responding to concerns raised by the Lesotho Youth Leagues Forum (LYLF) that South Africans far outnumber Basotho in the LHDA board and have a greater say in the running of the board.

The youth forum argues the current composition of the board is skewed in favour of South Africa resulting in most decisions disadvantaging Lesotho.

Members of the LYLF told the Senate Petitions Committee that Lesotho only has three members out of the eight-member board who were appointed under the 1986 Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Treaty.

They said this a clear indication that South Africa has a bigger voice in the decision-making processes of the organisation.

The LYLF was tabling its concerns before the committee after the Leribe Principal Chief Joele Motšoene, who is the chairman, told them to file their complaints afresh because they had lodged them during the last parliament.

Chief Motšoene had said senators like the Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader Jeremane Ramathebane, Finance Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla, Trade Minister Joshua Setipa and Deputy Education Minister Thabang Kholumo did not have the full background of the story.

The youths complained that the government’s voice in the LHDA board was as good as non-existent.

The LHDA is the executive arm of the LHWP which is a project that that is owned by Lesotho and South Africa. Its main objective is to tunnel water to South Africa while at the same time generating hydropower for Lesotho.

“This implies that the five South African directors are a majority that is eligible to make decisions in favour of the Republic of South Africa over that of the Kingdom of Lesotho,”the LYLF wrote to the Senate in one of their letters.

LYLF chairperson, Bokang Ramatšella, told the committee that South Africa is calling the shots on the pricing of water from Lesotho to South Africa.

Ramatšella is an executive committee member of the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), which is part of the current coalition government led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Last year, the project paid Lesotho about M700 million in water royalties.

Manama Letsie, an executive committee member of the Basotho National Party Youth League, said there is no need for Lesotho to be a compromising partner in the project when the project is meant to benefit both countries equally.

The youth forum’s concern was that because of the unequal balance in the LHDA board, South Africa is likely to get more water from the LHWP Phase II after the Polihali Dam construction without any further generation of electricity for Lesotho.

“The implication of the 1986 Treaty is such that the delivery of water to South Africa and the hydropower generation for Lesotho are mutually inclusive, meaning that, as a matter of law, no component should go ahead without the other,” read their letter to the Senate.

Their other complaint was that there is an agreement that foreign companies that will be contracted in some facets of the Phase II construction will not pay tax.

Rabele Makakole, a Democratic Congress (DC) youth, said there are no Environmental Impact Assessment, geotechnical studies and the market study for the construction of a hydropower station at Kobong to ensure Lesotho’s security of electricity.

Water Minister Ralechate ’Mokose said the project is will benefit both countries.

He said since the two countries have good bilateral relations, they will always negotiate if there are any problems.

Tau told the Senate committee that although he did not agree with most statements made by the youths, he confirmed that the government is pushing for a review of a section that provides for the appointment of LHDA board members.

On Tuesday Tau told thepost that the government is aware that the Water Minister’s role is merely to shortlist the applicants for board membership but does not have the appointing authority.

“The final selection of the board members is done by the Water Commission and the minister cannot do anything about their decision,” Tau said.

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