THE Water and Sewerage Company (Wasco) says it is saddled by huge debts that have hampered its service delivery and operations.
The debts are in the form of what customers owe for water supply and what the company owes to the government. Wasco owes the government M611 million and is owed a couple of millions by customers.
Wasco’s acting chief executive’ Mamathe Makhaola made the revelation at a stakeholders’ meeting last Friday where she implored the government to help the company repay its debt. Makhaola told Water Affairs Minister Ralechate ’Mokose that the M611 million loan was inherited from the time when it was still WASA, a government department.
The debt, Makhaola said, is now threatening to defeat the motive behind transforming the department into a company.
The reasoning for the transformation was that the company would be autonomous and will not be hamstrung by government bureaucracy.
Hopes were high that the new company would be able to source its own funding for projects and improve service delivery.
Makhaola hinted that although there has been significant improvement since the transformation the new company is now being held back by the debt.
She said the Five Towns Project is being partly sponsored with borrowed funds which government should help to repay.
“Because these loans are big amounts we would love for the government to commit itself to pay a certain percentage and the donor a certain percent,” Makhaola said.
“We request that these debts should be government’s debts and not the company’s.”
She also gave the impression that the government is hesitant to support the company financially.
While this appeared not to be the crux of her presentation the minister seized on it and insisted the government is committed to supporting Wasco.
“Recently, a couple of weeks ago, I brought before Parliament the needs of the water authority (Wasco) when the budget was discussed,” ’Mokose said.
“The Five Towns’ Water Supply Project, which started last year, and the urban and peri-urban water supply which include the Maseru waste water project are being funded by the government”.
Some of the people who attended the meeting said they were not convinced that Wasco is living up to its mandate. Others asked if the company was fully utilising its budget to improve its services.
In response Makhaola said the biggest problem remained that of poor revenue collection and money to maintain ageing infrastructure likes pipes.
“As a company we have plans to replace those old pipes with new ones to avoid losing more money on leaking pipes.”
Khomoatsana Tau, the Water Affairs Principal Secretary, weighed in with a call on the water company to maintain its pipes.
“If we do not maintain our infrastructure then we will pretty soon run out of water completely,” Tau said.
Mokose said some areas in Mohale’s Hoek and Butha-Buthe have not had water for a long time but the customers keep receiving huge bills.
The Minister recalled one family showing him a water bill of M35 000 despite not having water.
“This family said it was not clear what the charges were for because when they turned their taps on only air would come out and there is no water most of the time,” ’Mokose said.
A committee member from Butha-Buthe told the meeting that there is no proper source of water in the district’s main town and therefore WASCO cannot build a reservoir.
The committee member said a source they had had dried up.
“We request that WASCO should help us identify the best places to make borehole taps for the water supply,” he said.
“People from the villages of Ha-Kamoho and Lipelaneng have even resorted to fetching water from springs that are not protected and are posing health risks to the people,” he said.
A representative from Peka in Leribe said the water charges do not reflect what WASCO says they should be.
“It is said, 1000 litres is M4.51 but that is not true. It is more than that,” he said.
He further said they wrote to WASCO in 2013 complaining about dirty water and requested that the person in charge of WASCO in Teya-teyaneng should either be transferred to another office or demoted.
Wasco, he said, has not responded.
The proposed increase in tariffs was also among issues discussed with stakeholders saying it is common that the company keeps on increasing prices while its services are deteriorating.
WASCO has proposed a 13 percent increase on volumetric water and sewerage service tariffs.
Since last September Water and Sewarage Company (Wasco) has been having meetings in the districts as part of its Corporate Stakeholder Engagement Plan. Below are some of the concerns the company received:
- Water bills for schools remain high even when schools are closed.
- Wasco’s customer service has improved.
- There are people who still use water from unprotected wells.
- Rose Clinic has been slapped with a M11 000 bill and has since been disconnected.
- Peka Local Court paid M80 000 for water but Wasco’s statements do not reflect the amount.
- There is growing need for more sewer lines.
- Water from Metolong Dam should also be supplied to villages of Boinyatso, Maliele and surrounding areas.
- Bills continue to increase even when there is no water.
- Wasco staff has allowed the pipes to continue leaking for years.
- Water has been disconnected at the town’s main market for two years.
- There are cases of vandalism to water infrastructure and therefore education campaigns should be held frequently.
- When there is no water, Wasco should put in place measures for temporary supply especially if water shortage takes a week or longer.
- Wasco should start looking for other water sources for Mapoteng.
- Where there is a water cut the people at Wasco’s customer service department don’t have answers.
- Wasco should buy space in the media to communicate with the community.
- Wasco was applauded for reliable water supply in Mabuthile and Phahameng.
- There are sewage overflows everywhere in town.
- The Lipelaneng River is green as a result of water from the sewage pond.
- Pipes are laid on the surface and are therefore exposed to damage.
- Tšifa-li-mali community is not connected to water pipes despite that water mains are not far.
- Wasco should start looking for other sources of water because the current ones might not produce enough during droughts.
- The elevated tank should be installed to assist the existing reservoir.
- There should be water network in Letlapeng, Thaba-Chitja and parts of Phahameng.
- People should stop giving metre readers money to pay for them because the money never reaches Wasco.
- There should be pre-paid metres.
- Wasco should educate the community about metre reading and billing.
- Sewage is spilling near Farmer Training Centre
- Motse-mocha does not have water on weekends and people are rarely informed.
- Community leaders should be involved in water supply projects.
- Conservancy tanks leak.
- Sewage ponds should not be close to residential areas.
- Water sources are quickly diminishing.
- Wasco continues to issue bills but there is no water.
- Where there are boreholes like in Kholokoe, Wasco should think of constructing a tank to supply the area.
- There is need for more standpipes as people travel a long distance to draw water at the five existing ones.
- Wasco should educate the community about the billing process.
Lesotho’s own brandy
ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.
Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.
Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.
The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.
His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.
As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.
“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.
“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.
From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.
Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?
He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!
One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.
“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!
“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?
He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.
He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.
But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.
Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.
He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.
He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.
But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.
However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.
“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.
Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.
“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.
“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”
ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.
Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!
“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.
The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.
And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?
Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.
So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.
For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.
Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.
Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.
Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
A new, co-operative chain store
ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”
The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?
“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.
“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.
She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:
- Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
More production will come from such assurance.
- Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
“Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
- We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
- Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
- Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
“In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
- A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
- An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
“If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
“Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”
News2 months ago
How MP’s wife was killed
Business2 months ago
2 more students win scholarships from Letšeng Diamonds
Business2 months ago
Trade Minister rejects textile unions’ charge
Business2 months ago
Directorate suspends applications to build access roads
Business3 weeks ago
Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed
News2 months ago
Kabi to stay on as ABC leader
Business2 months ago
2 more students win scholarships from Letšeng Diamonds
Sports-pst2 months ago
Likuena’s international matches woes continue