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All set for second phase of water project

Billy Ntaote

KINGThe Minister of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Tšeliso Mokhosi on Thursday moved to allay fears regarding Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) the country is jointly undertaking with South Africa.

Mokhosi told journalists that he met his South African counterpart, Edna Molewa, on Tuesday in Johannesburg and among issues discussed was Eskom’s purchase of electricity to be generated at the Kobong Power Station. Phase II of the multi-million maloti LHWP comprises the construction of Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong and a water-transfer tunnel to Katse Dam, as well as the Kobong hydro-electricity station in Leribe.

According to Mokhosi, the meeting with Molewa, among others, sought to allay fears that the LHWP Phase II agreement, signed in August 2011, did not include the sale of electricity to South Africa — an “anomaly” which had angered Basotho, many of whom argued the agreement was skewed in favour of South Africa.

“The interesting thing is I was in South Africa to talk about an issue Molewa signed for way back in 2011, together with Monyane Moleleki, who was then Lesotho’s natural resources minister.
“Under the agreement, South Africa will buy electricity from Kobong or any place we would find fit after an analysis of
feasibility studies that have already been conducted.
“I also asked the minister to ensure that Eskom and the Lesotho Electricity Company draft a power-purchasing agreement regarding the issue.
“A team of principal secretaries and experts would now be assessing the study findings to determine whether we should continue with Kobong or opt for another viable location,” Mokhosi said.

Mokhosi also said his meeting with Molewa successfully dealt with complaints raised over the control of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) which he said would now be the responsibility of the government of Lesotho instead of the bilateral Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC).
“This is going to be done to ensure that fears that the project control was skewed in favour of South Africa are allayed.”
The two ministers also agreed that Lesotho and South African companies would enjoy equal benefits emanating from the project, Mokhosi said.
“We also agreed with Minister Molewa that our principal secretaries and her director-general, should work on regulations that would ensure that companies from the two countries are going to benefit equally from the project.”

Mokhosi further said his meeting with Molewa also touched on the supply of water to Botswana as per the March 2013 Memorandum of Understanding signed by Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa.

“In our conversation, Molewa shared with us that with the already existing infrastructure in South Africa, the supply of water to Botswana would just need an additional 70-kilometre tunnel to be connected to the existing South African infrastructure.
“Botswana’s inclusion in the water project came up in our meeting as it had been agreed that during the implementation of Phase II, the possibilities of supplying Botswana with water would be looked into.”

Mokhosi emphasised that fears that the project would not favour Basotho, had been fully addressed at his meeting with Molewa.
Meanwhile, Mokhosi said King Letsie III and South African president Jacob Zuma will officially launch the LHWP Phase II in Mokhotlong on March 27.

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