THE long-awaited construction of the M900 million Marakabei to Monontša road in Mechachane #1 constituency in Butha-Buthe has started.
The commencement of work on the 60km road was marked by a sod turning event which was officiated by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on Thursday.
The event was also attended by Mechachane legislator Nyapane Kaya; the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Prince Maliehe; the principal chief of Makhoakhoa, Tumane Matela, several other government officials and villagers.
The road, which will be constructed by the Chinese Company China Geo Engineering Corporation, will form an international link between Lesotho and South Africa and is expected to be finished in 2023.
The road will also be a connector route for settlements along the Caledon River such as Ha Paramente, Ha Poosho, Makhunoane, Ha Mabine, Qholaqhoe, Ha Lepatoa, Mechechane Ha Napo, Saballa and Libono Camp link them with the Butha-Buthe district headquarters.
Dr Thabane said it was the responsibility of the government to fulfil of providing services to the country. The premier said the intention of the government is to ensure that they fight hunger and poverty.
“I am proud that the day has finally come to launch the Marakabei-Monontša road which you have been longing for and we are bringing the services to the people as expected,” Dr Thabane said.
“Our daily concern is to ensure that the government fights poverty and hunger and also to makes lives easier for every Mosotho so that we all live a luxurious life.”
Dr Thabane said walking long distances and travelling on bad roads for sick people and pregnant women to access clinics for will be a thing of the past.
The Prime Minister also explained that the construction which was initially penned in to commence at the end of 2017 was delayed after the cabinet realised that the funds were “not properly” budgeted.
“It was discovered that the money which was budgeted for this construction was not clearly budgeted for and the government decided to put it on hold so that we can start when everything is in order.
“Today your call Likila and Makhoakhoa has been responded to and tough travelling conditions going to the clinics in Qholaqhoe for the sick people and pregnant women will be a thing of the past when this road is finished. Public transport will increase and you will no longer wait for a long time to get transport or go to the border gate in Monontša,” Dr Thabane said.
Dr Thabane said the construction of roads is one of the benchmarks in each country’s economy as they make it easy to access services.
“It is with no doubt that it will be easy for businesses to be opened in your area now to save you from travelling long distances. In the same manner, other government services like police will also find it easy to travel whenever they got tip offs and will arrive in time at crime scenes before any damage is done,” he said.
For his part, the visibly exultant Mr Kaya heaped praises on the government for living up to its promise.
“Today is the happiest day for me and even if I die tomorrow, I will rest in peace. When I first came into politics one of my biggest mandates from this constituency was to see that this road is constructed. For a long time, we have been told that this road has already been surveyed but there was no money and I am glad that the government finally resolved the issue and the construction will soon start,” Mr Kaya said.
The upgrading of the road will have a direct impact on more than 100 000 livelihoods in the Butha-Buthe district starting with over 550 new jobs to be created throughout the construction phase.
But the All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislator was quick to warn those in charge of employment to avoid nepotism.
“This construction is going to create jobs for almost 600 people and we have more than 10 000 people in this constituency so we should know that not all of us are going to be hired but also, those who will be doing the hiring must try to be transparent,” Mr Kaya said.
The project will upgrade the road from gravel to bituminous standard and will also see the construction of a double lane nine-metre-wide “A Class” road that leads to an international border post and also heightens “farm to market” access.
The works will include the construction of a new vehicular bridge across the Hololo River and the upgrading to bitumen standard of a one-kilometre service road at Ha Napo Military Base and a construction of border crossing facilities at Monontša Border Post.
The road works will include engineering design work and a 20km length of artificial road lighting at designated sections along the road.
Mr Maliehe said 30 percent of the construction of the road will be handed to a Basotho owned company.
“This work is going to be done by one of the best construction companies in China Geo and like it has been explained, it is going to create about 600 jobs for the locals.
“Thirty percent of this project will be given to Basotho so that they also have time to learn under one of the best contractors,” Mr Maliehe said.
He further said to avoid shady businesses in hiring workers, the chiefs and councillors will alert the communities on the dates of hiring while his office will also be present to monitor the processes on the selected days.
Mr Maliehe also implored the villagers to take care of the infrastructural developments in their areas instead of vandalising them.
“Desist from vandalising infrastructure in your areas. It is everyone’s responsibility because at the end, you are the ones who will suffer. Let’s not go to this road and destroy the road signs because not only will you be committing criminal offences but you will always be putting lives of the road users at risk,” Mr Maliehe said.
Chief Matela said he was pleased to see the community being served.
“I am happy that finally this day has arrived. I just hope that people are not going to use this opportunity to push their agendas and hiring will be transparent. I also believe that this is going to be one of the high standards roads,” he said.
One of the villagers, Tjotji Tšota could not also hide his joy and said he hopes the construction of the road will help the communities bring an end to the high rate of stock theft. Mr Tšota, who is also a wool and mohair farmer said he believes that when this road is completed, it will be easy for them to travel and find markets for their products.
“It feels good to see this kind of development in our area and we hope our lives will change. Now that movement will be eased, I hope the issue of stock theft will decline because now it will be easy for the police to come in time when we call for help.
“I lost about 60 sheep to the thieves two years back and I had to start afresh but I already have around 20 now so I believe by the time this road is done it will be easy for us to access all services we need to sell our wool and mohair and improve our livelihood,” Mr Tšota concluded.