PRESS SECRETARY in the Prime Minister’s Office, Thabo Thakalekoala, says the South African government has allayed fears over Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP2).
There were fears Lesotho’s current political uncertainty, if not resolved soon, could stall the LHWP2, which is a multibillion-maloti water project being jointly undertaken by the Lesotho and South African governments.
According to Mr Thakalekoala, the project was one of the major reasons why South African President Jacob Zuma came to Lesotho last week to meet the three feuding leaders of the ruling coalition government.
On his arrival, Mr Zuma first paid a courtesy call on King Letsie III, before meeting All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, and Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader and Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo. Mr Zuma sought to find out how the three parties, which formed a coalition government in June 2012, were resolving their differences that nearly saw government collapsing two months ago. The LCD has accused Dr Thabane of not consulting his partners when making key decisions, leading to a souring of relations and interventions by various stakeholders.
“South Africa has assured us that the deal is still on. That is one of the reasons why President Zuma came to intervene in the current political situation,” Mr Thakalekoala told the Sunday Express.
He added South Africa would not pull out of the deal, which was established through a treaty signed by the two countries in 1986, because of the country’s need to augment its water supplies.
“The South African government wants to make sure that there is stability in Lesotho so that they can still continue to get quality water from us. They cannot look anywhere else but to us for water. They need our water,” he said.
Meanwhile, the LHWP2 would, among others, see Polihali Dam being constructed at the confluence of Khubelu and Senqu rivers beginning 2017, with the project earmarked for completion in 2022.
Phase One of the project, consisting of the construction of Katse and Mohale dams, Muela hydropower station and associated tunnels, was inaugurated in 2004, with Phase Two processes subsequently being initiated in 2010.
The M15billion LHWP2 was launched early this year by Zuma and King Letsie III in Mokhotlong, where the Polihali dam is going to be built.
South Africa seeks to augment its water-supply for both domestic and industrial use through the project, while Lesotho expects to benefit from infrastructure such as roads, as well as royalties and electricity from the initiative.