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Setting pace for ‘future energy’



ROMA – THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) beat tens of scientific institutions from all over the world and won a prize in the area of “Future Energy” at the BIE-Cosmos Expo 2017. The expo was held in Kazakhstan.

NUL demonstrated an innovative unconventional solar energy system that clearly caught everyone by surprise, Anadola Tšiu the brains behind the system, says.  When it all started, the odds were clearly stacked against the school in the Roma Valley.
Tšiu was coming face to face with brilliant scientists from all over the world who gathered at the expo in Kazakhstan, showcasing their innovations in a rigorous competition that would last three months.

In the end, it was the most unlikely that happened—lots and lots of institutions were eliminated, leaving just six competitors including the NUL among them. That was good enough. But then, NUL went on to deliver a lasting blow, crushing the last five competitors and emerging as the sole winner.
History had been made!
No doubt you don’t believe us—do you?
We don’t blame you—Tšiu did not believe it either.
“Frankly, when I looked at the projects the NUL was up against, I had already given up, so I couldn’t believe it when I saw we were number one!” he says.

Well, this sounds more like a story of David and Goliath— how else do you explain how poorly resourced NUL scientists stood their ground up against the best in the world in the area of Future Energy Technologies?
It’s called innovation!

But just as the story of David and Goliath is a true story, so is the story of NUL beating the world’s best at the glitzy international expo in Kazakhstan!
The story goes like this:

NUL, along with other institutions from Lesotho attended the internationally acclaimed expo, alongside institutions from numerous countries.
But, as usual, NUL was there for a different purpose altogether—it was there for a kill.
Of course this is not the first time!

You might remember Tšiu outmaneuvered scientists from all over the world about a year ago and won a second prize in Germany, coming second only to Canada. That system was focused mainly on solving the problems of energy for the poor in electricity-starved rural Lesotho.
“Kazakhstan was different,” Tšiu says.

“This time, the idea was to come up with a system that would solve energy problems, not only for rural Lesotho, but for all, hence the theme Energy for All,” he says.
That is, the system had to be good for the rural poor in the South as it was for the urban rich in the North.
It had to be just as good for households as it would be for large industries.
Let us, for a minute, quote from the horses’ mouth in Kazakhstan.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, Deputy Secretary General of the BIE, showed that NUL project was “a concrete example of the core values of both Expo 2017 Astana and Expo ’90, to promote sustainability and environmental protection”.
Shinya Kubota of the Expo ’90 Foundation states: “The National University of Lesotho’s project fully embodies the harmonious coexistence of nature and mankind, the fundamental principle of the Expo ’90 Foundation.”
What is it about this system that has caught the attention of the world’s brightest?
Remember the basics of solar water heaters.

They are made such that they capture the sun’s energy and store it in water, producing water circulation in the absence of electricity.
“But our solar water heater system is a bit more advanced, actually it offers three in one,” Tšiu says.
“It offers traditional water heating for general uses, it offers space heating which includes under-floor heating and wall radiation and it can even generate electricity using smart little known Organic Rankine Cycle technology,” he says.
Of interest is the system’s ability to use Organic Rankine Cycle technology.

In this case, “we heat water first, and the water in turn transfers its heat to a refrigerant, which, upon evaporation, drives a turbine, producing electricity,” he says. It works much like a good old steam engine except that in his view, “steam engines were notorious for losing energy into the atmosphere while our system conserves as much of the energy as possible”.
This is how.

Once the refrigerant has been used to produce electricity, it is again cooled. It is cooled with water and the water in turn gets warm (ever heard of heat-exchange?). “Here is the beauty of our system, we don’t throw away that warm water, we use it to warm buildings,” he says.
Thus they save every “iota” of energy!

And they recycle the refrigerant. But why not just use the famous photovoltaic solar cells?
In cold countries like Lesotho and especially Kazakhstan, solar energy can be very elusive in winter, necessitating the use of numerous batteries with poor life span.

“In our case,” Tšiu says, “we store our energy in water in the tanks— tanks are our batteries.”
“Plus tanks are low cost, and they endure for a lifetime.”

Own Correspondent

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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