Ha Mpiti-Sehlabathebe road project begins
PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane says his four-party administration is committed to efficient service delivery that will uplift the lives of all Basotho regardless of their political affiliation.
Dr Thabane said this while officiating at the recent sod turning ceremony ahead of the construction of the 92-kilometre Ha Mpiti-Sehlabathebe road in the Qacha’s Nek district.
The premier also paid tribute to the Chinese government for funding this and other projects in Lesotho.
He said that it was his government’s goal to develop all parts of the country and free Basotho from the clutches of poverty.
“It has been a long-held dream to have this route transformed from gravel to a tarred road and some of you even thought it was a farfetched dream,” Dr Thabane said.
“We have come here to prove that the coalition government is for the entire Basotho nation and delivers services everywhere they are needed without discrimination. We are here to fulfil our dream. Our mandate is to make life easy for every Mosotho so that we all live in a country free from poverty.
“We work tirelessly to formulate policies which will end the poverty that has paralysed the nation and roads are a major development strategy as they link villages.
“This is a major development as it links Qacha’s Nek and Thaba Tseka. It will further improve tourism in this area as Sehlabathebe has been listed as an international heritage site. We believe it will contribute immensely to tourism and further reduce the travelling time in the area.
“Over 500 Basotho will get jobs and furthermore, 30 percent of the construction will be conducted by Basotho. We plead for smooth working relations between the community and constructors. Let the chiefs and councillors be the eyes and ears of the government,” Dr Thabane said.
Ha Mpiti-Sehlabathebe road is one of the major projects that China and Lesotho are implementing under the framework of the 2015 Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit. The Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of China provided a concessional loan of M1, 4 billion to fund the project. The government injected a further M500 million for the road which will link the highlands of Qacha’s Nek, Thaba Tseka and Mokhotlong with the lowlands and further lead to the Sehlabathebe National Park.
Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro and the former Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho, Sun Xianghua, signed the concessional loan agreement on behalf of their respective governments in March this year.
At the time, Dr Majoro explained that “a concessionary loan is a financial assistance package from a developed country to a third-world country where the financer exports services to the country being helped”.
“In this case, it means that as the financer, the EXIM Bank of China will bring a contractor to build the road,” added Dr Majoro.
Speaking at the recent ceremony, Dr Thabane paid tribute to China for the funding for the road construction.
“Our two countries have sustained mutual trust and continued to maintain close relations in international affairs. We therefore pride ourselves in having a true and reliable friend in China. Lesotho boasts numerous iconic infrastructure developments which have been granted by China. These include the state house, China Friendship School, ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre and the parliament building. The Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic as well as the Hlotse Dam will soon be constructed with the help of China.
“On behalf of the entire Basotho nation, we thank China for its generosity over the years. The two sister countries share strong historical ties premised on a strong foundation of solidarity, equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”
For his part, the Chinese Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Song Changqing, said that the road will reduce the travel time between Ha Mpiti and Sehlabathebe, boost tourism and the overall economy of Lesotho.
“The Ha Mpiti to Sehlabathebe road will complete the road network of Lesotho and make the transportation much more convenient for the residents of Qacha’s Nek. Once the construction is complete, the travelling time from Ha Mpiti to Sehlabathebe will be shortened from four hours to one hour.
“Secondly, the project is a stimulus to the economy as 30 percent of the contract has been sub-contracted to local companies and lots of building materials will be procured locally.
“Thirdly, the road will boost tourism and related industries. The Sehlabathebe National Park is one of the best tourism resources bestowed on this country. The road will bring more visitors to Qacha’s Nek and this will in turn require hotels and catering facilities, thus creating more jobs and business opportunities.”
Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Teboho Lehloenya and ministers Keketso Rantšo (Labour), Dr Majoro (Finance), Mahala Molapo (Agriculture), Tlohelang Aumane (Development Planning), Tsukutlane Au (Home Affairs) and Prince Maliehe (Public Works and Transport) all attended the ceremony.