MASERU – MOKENA Makeka is an award winning architect whose designs have been featured in several publications. He too has been the subject of glowing interviews in several publications. Yet if there is any project that has begun to gnaw at his sterling reputation it is the construction of the Royal Palace. To be fair, Makeka did not create the mess.
He found it there. The question is whether he has made a bad situation worse. As the following interview will reveal, Makeka does not think he should be blamed for the delays and cost overruns. He was responding to prepared questions through a communications consultant.
What would you say are the main reasons for the delay in completing the project? Here we ask for a holistic assessment of the project from start to now.
The project officially began in 2008, launched as a competition by the Government of Lesotho. The winning team began work in 2010, two years later. Due to numerous challenges, the design team selected was taken off the project and Makeka Designs was appointed as interior designers in 2012.
Our firm was appointed as Architect in 2014, six years after the original launch of the project. The first step was to conduct a comprehensive audit of the work that had been done by the previous team. We found that the building was not structurally sound.
We proposed two courses of action: to work with what we had and implement changes, or to wipe the slate clean and begin the building from scratch. We decided to go with the former. To date, we have produced an estimate of 1000 drawings. It is a living project, with changes being implemented as we build.
It is important to note that Makeka Designs inherited a flawed structure as well as the previous team, which includes the structural engineer, architect, manufacturers, electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, contractor, sub-contractors and consultants.
It is a multi-component team of which the client is very much a part. We interrogated the landscape that we found. We set realistic timelines. We adhered to best practices and we professionalised the project. Makeka Designs is an award-winning firm with a global reputation of which we are very proud.
We have ethics as well as a professional code of conduct. This is also the only palace being built in the world and we are committed to designing a building that Lesotho can be proud of. However, design is inherently a team effort. All parties contribute to the success of the project and are accountable for any delays.
For example, delays by the client in the approval of designs or disbursement of payments to suppliers and consultants can push back delivery from members of the team.
Makeka Designs does not have a say over when suppliers and consultants get paid, nor over whether or not to work with certain consultants.
The design is just as much a reflection of the client’s decision-making as it is Makeka Designs’ vision. At present, the contractor, client and consultants are all aware that they have been instructed to finish the project before the end of the year.
With all hands on deck and every member of the team’s timely contribution to the project, I believe that we are on track to meet this deadline.
It would seem that when Makeka Designs became the Architect they too set deadlines for themselves to complete this project. Those deadlines have been missed twice, if not several times. What would you say are the reasons for this?
As previously noted, design requires a multi-faceted approach and Makeka Designs began this project with a team, systems, challenges and opportunities that were already in place. As the principal agent, our job is to ensure we meet the client’s expectations.
As we do with all of our clients globally, we remained committed to delivering the highest standard of professionalism and quality.
However, our work is not independent of the decisions and actions of other professionals involved in the project; these include the client, structural engineer, architect, manufacturers, electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, contractor, sub-contractors and consultants.
Everyone has to play their part in order for deliverables to be met in a timely manner. It is therefore incorrect and ill-advised to attribute delays to Makeka Designs as numerous parties are accountable and responsible for the completion of this project.
Rather, the following dynamics should be taken into consideration:
l The time lapse between the launch of the project and our appointment as the principal agent.
l The starting point: the structural flaws of the building as inherited by Makeka Designs and the work required and planned to implement changes.
l The operational challenges that come with merging team efforts, aligning competencies, professionalizing a project and working in mutual consultation on a landmark building despite previous obstacles.
l The client’s timely appointment of consultants, approval of proposed work and payment of fees.
l Clear lines of decision-making, responsibility and communication across the team structure. All of the above can affect whether or not deadlines are met.
Makeka Designs is not the sole decision-maker on this project. We remain committed to our intention to meet deadlines. However, it must be noted that the nature of the work and team mean that everyone’s desire and responsibility have to align to achieve a common purpose.
How would you describe the nature of the job done by LSP before you became the principal agent?
LSP is a competent contractor. However, a contractor is only as good as the consistency of the client in terms of the clarity of parameters, timely disbursement of payments and approval of budgets.
They also require strong management from an architect, amongst other dynamics. When these key elements are compromised, contractors are not able to deliver to expected standards. This is applicable to any contractor in the world.
Interviews with several people indicate that Makeka Designs also contributed to the delay when it was the interior designer because it was not producing the drawings on time. How true are these allegations?
Makeka Designs would like some clarity on who made the allegations and a frank discussion on the same. Anyone with professional knowledge of the work required will also be able to advise that the nature of design is such that Makeka Designs has never been and is not presently responsible for providing all of the drawings.
Our firm has and continues to meet its deliverables. Design is a collaborative process that necessitates multi-party contributions. We continue to drive for commonality of purpose as we aim for the completion of this project.
There are allegations that Makeka Designs has contributed to the delays as the Architect because it is not producing the Drawings. We have here letters from LSP indicating that there were not getting the drawings on time?
The timely meeting of deliverables on this project, as with any other, is an amalgamation of inputs. Makeka Designs is a representative of the process and not the sole provider of input. We believe that LSP is aware of the same, but we remain open to a direct discussion with LSP if further clarification is necessary.
The initial drawing did not have a roof garden. Was its addition your suggestion or it came from the client?
When Makeka Designs was appointed to the project, we became part of the client body. Design is a collaborative process by its very nature, and any final designs are signed off by the client.
At one time you suggested firing the contractor (LSP). What informed that recommendation?
Makeka Designs has never suggested the firing of LSP. Our job as the principal agent is to give the client options for the decisions that they take.
As elaborated above, we agreed to retain the structure inherited from the previous designers and implement changes, as opposed to destroying it to begin again.
It only makes logical sense that we would recommend the same contractor be retained for continuity purposes.
There are obviously budget overruns caused by the delay. What is the new cost of the project? Is there a possibility that the cost might escalate further?
Makeka Designs, as with any architect and design firm, is not in charge of cost. The client sets the budget and the quantity surveyor monitors the cost on behalf of the client. We are therefore not in a position to comment on cost.
What do you say to allegations that you have suggested several demolitions and additional changes to the initial drawing because you want to push up your fees?
I am a qualified architect and Makeka Designs retains a stellar global reputation and track record. We are committed to ethics as well as to a professional code of conduct. Our fees are determined by industry standards and they do not deviate from these standards. We have not in the past and have no intention of pushing up fees nor of compromising our reputation on any project. We have never been accused of the same. We are shocked and offended by these slanderous allegations, which we believe are made in bad faith. Makeka Designs remains open to a frank discussion with any alleging parties.
You said Makeka Designs never suggested firing the LSP. Are you sure this never happened? I ask because there is a letter from Makeka Designs suggesting this. Please check in the folders because I am sure there was such a letter. I have the letter. Because there has been lots of letters it might be that Makeka Designs has forgotten about the letter.
As you know, no correspondence stands outside of a given context. It is therefore difficult for Makeka Designs to respond to your question, context included, without evidence of the letter of which you speak. Kindly send us a copy of the same letter so that we are in a better position to respond accordingly. As you have rightly said, there have been “lots of letters” and it would be helpful to understand which of these letters you are referring to. Given your looming deadline and our numerous priorities, you would appreciate that requesting us to “check in the folders” is perhaps not the most efficient way to proceed. Nevertheless, I request and trust that no completely and mutually verified information will be published about Makeka Designs.
After the letter was sent Makeka Design’s response was this: As explained in my previous email, the project is one that requires various parties to bring their full weight and competence to the table. In this instance, Makeka Designs was frustrated by the fact that LSP was not pulling its weight as expected by all parties and by client.
The letter was meant to inform the client that they have all options at their disposal and are not hostages to the contractor to complete the project.
Our goal has been and will always be to give the best advice to the client at any given time and this means providing options and alternatives. We have no vested interest in who the contractor is – only that they work to the required specifications at reasonable cost.
We emphasize our disappointment at the breach of confidential and state security information on a national security point. Our professional correspondence to the client has legal bearing that is binding on all recipients. As we have said before, we are duty bound to preserve the privacy of all of our clients, and the professional integrity of the matter. We therefore assert that Makeka Designs does not and has never been involved in leaks or disinformation.
Lawyer in trouble
A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.
It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.
Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.
Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.
According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.
The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.
During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.
His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.
Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.
He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.
Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.
Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.
Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.
Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.
He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.
The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.
Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.
Trio in court for killing ‘witches’
THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.
Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.
They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.
The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.
Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.
Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.
He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.
“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.
He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.
They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.
Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.
He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.
Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.
He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.
Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.
He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.
“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.
He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.
Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.
The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.
Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.
“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.
He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.
“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.
He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.
Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.
He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.
The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.
“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.
He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.
Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.
He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.
Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.
He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.
“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”
He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.
Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.
He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.
Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.
“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.
The case continues.
Opposition fights back
THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.
Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.
But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.
The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.
Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.
Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.
It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.
The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.
The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.
“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.
“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”
“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”
The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.
The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.
“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.
He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.
“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.
“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”
He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.
“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.
Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.
“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.
Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.
“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.
“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”
The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.
The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.
Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.
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