Palace architect quits

Palace architect quits

MASERU – IT was supposed to cost taxpayers just under M200 million and take just eighteen months to complete.
Yet seven years later it remains far from being finished even as its cost have ballooned to M500 million.
That is supposed to be news bad enough to last the whole year but the Royal Palace project is never far from controversy.
This week the project ran into fresh trouble after its architect abruptly pulled out.

Makeka Design Lab (MDL), a Cape Town Based firm, announced that it had left the project on July 12.
It said it was jumping ship after “identifying several issues that affect our ability to deliver the highest standard of professionalism and quality for our work in the Royal Palace of Lesotho”.
There is however some confusion as the government says is not aware that MDL has terminated its contract.

The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Public Works, Mothabathe Hlalele, told thepost last night that as far he is aware the government still has a contract with MDL.
“They brought some drawings to us last week meaning we are still working with them,” Hlalele said.
He said he had only heard from social media that MDL had quit the project.

He said they do not have an official termination letter from Makeka.
It is not clear why the ministry has not received the letter for a decision the MDL says it made on July 12.
Hlalele said he will today meet all companies involved in the Royal Palace project to hear their grievances. The PS said he had heard from the grapevine that MDL was not happy that government owes it about M5 million.

“What we have to do is simply to talk to the line ministry to process the payment for the company if it is true that they terminated the contract for the unpaid balance,” he said.
He said the ministry was concerned that MDL did not have offices in Lesotho.
The ideal, he said, is for the company to be based in Lesotho so it can effectively monitor the project.
MDL said it has encountered a host of issues that include “financing and questionable decision-making by various stakeholders, which have led to a deterioration of relations between ourselves and our client”.

“It is therefore judicious and proficient at this stage that we withdraw our services for the client to pursue their vision to their fulfilment,” the firm said.
It said the decision to end the contract has not been taken lightly “but ensures that we are not party to any further damage or risk for activities done by others which can be attributed to the Makeka Design Lab’s professional team”.

“It has been and will always be our most prestigious commission as a practice.
“We were initially commissioned to do interior design, then as architects and ultimately as the principal agent of the project. We believe that we have played a significant role in the redesign of the palace.”

Owned by Mokena Makeka, MDL becomes the second to leave the project.
Palace Architect, the initial designers of the palace, left the project after a fight over payments.
It was replaced by MDL which had been initially hired as an interior design.

MDL has however been accused of chopping and changing the designs, thus delaying the projects and ballooning its cost.
A few weeks ago Hlalele told thepost that he was not planning to accelerate the project so that the royal family can move in by the end of the year.
Several people involved in the project however said that would ratchet the cost by tens of millions of Maloti.

They said it was almost impossible to complete the project by the end of the year.
MDL’s resignation could further delay the project.
Any delay in construction comes with additional cost.

Majara Molupe

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