Privatise Lesotho’s roads

Privatise Lesotho’s roads

I received a lot of negative feedback following last week’s opinion piece. I was criticised for being a bit on the negative side by comparing Lesotho to Botswana. Some people felt that I was a bit harsh and negative and the piece left a bitter aftertaste.

Well, some of our readers may be interested to know that Lesotho’s economy was actually bigger to Botswana’s economy in 1990 before democracy was introduced in Lesotho in 1993. That should tell you a thing or two about democracy.
Now, the real mystery surrounds the facts on how Lesotho got left behind its peers being Botswana and eSwatini to a level where Botswana grew its economy ten times bigger to that of Lesotho. Ten times bigger! Tell me, where did we go wrong?

It seems like every time Botswana ascends (rises) to greater heights and achievements, we on the other hand, continue digging our own grave like the ABC. Re hola joalo ka lengope, joalo ka party e bitsoang AD. E hola e ea tlase. Phansi! (We are growing like a ditch, just like the AD party. It is growing while declining).
On a serious note though, I didn’t mean to depress anyone when I made reference to Spur. Its closure actually made me very sad and disappointed.

Che, let’s be honest with ourselves, Spur was usually full of people that were there not to eat.
They would buy one cheeseburger for their kids and buy one Hunters Dry ebe motho o tla e meta hora tse tharo kaofela (and they would kiss it for three hours). You’d think the restaurant is packed and doing well from the outside, athe ho ntso metoa tirinki le lemon-water ka honey. Guys, this is a very sad state of affairs. How can a country fail to sustain one Spur Restaurant? One!

Well, that is the reality of our economy and that wasn’t meant to be an intention of the opinion piece. It was merely meant to be a reflection of what we have become. Nothing personal!
Well, let’s talk about something positive then. I had intended to take a break from writing for about three months due to work demands. It looks like everyone wants to build now that the pandemic has stabilised. Or could we say now that we’ve all gotten used to the pandemic and almost all of us got infected by the Covid virus. Apparently, the third wave is going to be deadlier than the first two waves.

Now, let’s talk about our roads. Good people, our roads need Jesus. Or should I say divine intervention. Or maybe some deliverance but something drastic needs to be done as a matter of urgency.
There is clear evidence that our brothers and sisters from the Roads Directorate, Maseru City Council and Road Fund, are having a very difficult time solving the condition of our roads.
I won’t point fingers towards them. Some of them are indeed my brothers from our university days at the University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN). So we need to offer solutions and not throw stones at each other.

I drove to Durban about a week ago for a meeting with one architect named Nick Proome. My head was also over-heating from hearing scandalous stories from the LCA and the never ending political squabbles in our motherland. So, I took the N3 from Gauteng straight down to the KZN, Durban, to be precise.
Some of our readers may be interested to know that Nick Proome is the architect behind the Post Office Building and Moposo House. He also designed the reconstruction of LNDC Centre after it got burnt down in the 1998 “political” riots. Look at the things we are famous for. Political riots.

Funny enough, Ntate Tom, Ntate Moleleki and Ntate Mosisili were in the mix of things back in 1998 and they’ll still be in the mix of things till 2031, 10 years from now. We can bet on that.
Now, Nick was quite surprised when I told him that three of the buildings he designed haven’t been refurbished since their completion in 1998. They still look the same as they were opened more than 20 years ago.
The Post Office Building and Moposo House are crying for a fresh coat of paint. On the other hand, the LNDC Centre is in a state of decay but the LNDC seems to be in denial.

Why do I bring this up yet I made an undertaking to talk about roads? It is because there seems to be something that goes horribly wrong when national assets are placed in the hands of the public sector as opposed to be managed and owned by the private sector.
I’ve always found it surprising that the Lesotho Government finds a need to clutch onto assets and allow them to decay in their hands. I guess those are the fruits of democracy.
There is clear and visible evidence that the private sector is more than capable of managing roads with concessions made with the public sector (Government). The closest example being the N3 and N4 (Bakwena) highways, in South Africa.

I am well aware that we have a range of readers that follow these opinion pieces and some of them being students. So I try to be as elaborate as much as I can, in order to paint a vivid picture.
Now, the N3 highway connects the Gauteng province from Johannesburg and the KZN province in Durban. On the other hand, the N4 connects Maputo to Gaborone and cuts through Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the North-West province.

What’s synonymous about the N3 and N4 highways is that they are constantly under construction all year round, 365 days of the year. That is because they are privately owned and operated, well on concessions.
Can’t we explore similar models for our roads? There is clear evidence that the Roads Directorate and Maseru City Council do not have enough capacity and budget to maintain and manage all roads in Lesotho.
Would it make better sense for the Government of Lesotho to go into concession agreements with the private sector? For instance, sign a concession agreement for an upgrade and maintenance of Main South-One Road, Main North-One Road and Kofi-Annan Roads. Possibly, and transfer all roads in the city from Roads Directorate to Maseru City Council?

I think this would lift the heavy burden from the shoulders of the Roads Directorate. Maybe the Roads Directorate would then operate as an authority and monitor and evaluate all roads signed with the private sector.
Something like National Roads Authority of Lesotho (NRAL). NRAL would also issue new licences for construction of new roads to the private sector.
But all in all, the private sector would then have to find new ways and models to finance and raise money for construction and up-keep of roads. Whether by means of petrol levies, levies on renewals of licence discs and toll-fees.

There are various models and ways to finance construction and maintenance of new roads. But this would help us to remodel the funding structure of our roads in Lesotho.
This would also help us to get a private entity to construct new commercial border posts and to build new highways.

Maseru City is crying out loud for a new border post with a new high-way to the city centre and a new highway from Maseru CBD to the airport, in Thota-Moli.
Berea is also crying out loud for a new highway that will by-pass TY. I would drive on that highway even if it costs M100 one-way.
Having said all these, the biggest stumbling block will always be our childish politics and greedy politicians.

‘Mako Bohloa

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