Smoking the peace pipe

Smoking the peace pipe

MASERU- PARLIAMENT Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources is investigating the source of the frosty relations between communities and Kolo, Kao and Liqhobong mines.
For the past three months communities have been complaining about mines that operate in their areas. They say the mines are damaging their environment, contaminating their water sources while refusing to invest in the development of their areas.
They say the mines have hired people from outside.

Protests at the mines have left several people injured and forced some of the companies to temporarily halt operations. The mining companies believe the protests are being instigated by civic organisations and outsiders who want to stir trouble.
The committee chairman Mpalipali Molefe, who is also the MP for ’Maliepetsane which borders Kolo, said it is time for the parliament to intervene.
Although he says there is need for a thorough investigation he too however seems to have concluded that the mines are at fault.
“The owners of the mines or the management do not care about Basotho, they used their resources but they give nothing back to the community,” Molefe said.
He said this happens at all mines in Lesotho “and this leads to unsatisfied people whom at the end have started to fight against the mines, which is not healthy for the business of the very same mines”.

“We heard the loud cry of the communities around the Kolo mines, Liqhobong as well as Kao, and we thought we have to help our people as Basotho.”
The communities in these areas say they want what they have been promised by the mines but now these mines do not want to do what they have promised them, he said.
The communities want the mines to honour promises of building roads, provision of potable water and employment.
But what irks the communities more is that instead of delivering on their promises, the mines are ruining the environment as well as damaging their houses during the blasting as they search for diamonds.

The parliament committee intervention comes after one person was killed and two others injured in Kao during the stand-off between the villagers and the mine authorities who called the police to disperse the complaining community.

In Kolo, the villagers have for the past eight years been complaining that mining companies that have come to their village to dig diamonds have cracked their houses and refuse to repair them.
They also complain that their ancestors were exhumed without their consent and traditions related to the worship of the ancestors were not followed.
Molefe said these things have recently led to people demonstrating in objection to what the mines are doing.
“They benefit more than the owners of the land do,” Molefe said.

“So, the communities had a fight with the owners of the mines where some of those people got injured by the police and one of them was killed,” he said.
Molefe said as a committee of parliament they are very concerned about the lives of Basotho and their peace.
“That is why we will make sure that we work hard to help Basotho. We are working on this issue in parliament and still doing the investigations,” he said.
He said the Liqhobong mine is doing better because they have put aside M1.5 million for the roads that will be built for the community.

The funds will be handed over to the government.
The MP for Senqu constituency, Likeleli Tampane-Monare, a member of the committee, said there are many problems for people of Kao and Liqhobong.
“So, we wanted to go there and talk with those people and the mine owners as well,” she said.

“We can see that there is a lot of corruption happening there, the same corruption that our Prime Minister said he will bring to an end,” she said, adding that “the corruption is also done by some of the people who are in government”.
Tampane-Monare said people are dying at the mines.

“Not one, not two but many,” she said.
“We really want this issue to be dealt with as soon as possible, otherwise Lesotho is going nowhere.”
Parliament was supposed to have adopted the committee’s report on Monday but Deputy Speaker Teboho Lehloenya instructed Molefe not to table it because the investigations were not thorough enough.

The committee promised to leave no stone unturned in the investigations on what is really happening between the mines and the communities.
The committee is also expected to recommend what parliament should do to solve the problems between the miners and the host communities fairly and amicably.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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