BOTHA-BOTHE – Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last Friday officially unveiled Phase One of the Ha Belo Industrial Estate construction in Butha Buthe, an initiative expected to create 14 250 jobs for the local community upon completion.
The industrial site is expected to accommodate 51 factory shells owned by the government through the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC).
Speaking at the sod turning ceremony, Dr Thabane said the firms will increase business linkages for Butha-Buthe and neighbouring communities.
He said the development of Ha Belo Industrial Estate was in line with the government’s economic policy to expand productive capacity in manufacturing and diversifying exported production.
“The development also speaks to the quest to accelerate job creation and tackle youth unemployment in particular, Dr Thabane said.
“By investing tax revenue in this construction phase, the government is demonstrating its commitment towards ending poverty. We are always prepared to make tough choices in the interest of our people, even under harsh economic conditions.”
He said through the years, the Ha Belo community often promised various development initiatives which did not materialise but all this was set to change with the new venture.
“We are here to fulfil our promises to improve lives by making sure that people can start small businesses in these factory shells and create employment opportunities for our people. This development will go a long way in stimulating the country’s economic growth because there is potential for production for export as well as for local consumption,” Dr Thabane said.
Also speaking at the sod turning event, Trade and Industry minister, Tefo Mapesela, said that the Ha Belo community had waited far too long to see the Industrial Estate come to life.
“With proper business planning, we can export our products from this industrial estate to other African countries and not be just importers of foreign goods. We also hope to robustly market this industrial estate globally in order to attract regional and international investors,” Mr Mapesela said.
For his part, the Member of Parliament for Butha-Buthe Number 4 Constituency, Motlohi Maliehe said, communities had given up on the construction of the factory shells.
“It has been 16 years since the Ha Belo fields were bought and we are grateful that the government is going ahead with the construction of the industrial estate,” Mr Maliehe said.
He said despite indications that the landowners were cheated by representatives of buyers when they sold their land for a mere M2, 50 per square metre, they hoped that the community would benefit from the industrial facility during and after construction.
“People here need jobs because after selling their land for a song, the former landowners have become poorer. They cannot even finance their own farming operations. We would therefore appreciate support from the government to make sure that the construction of the factory shells benefits people from Butha-Buthe and neighbouring areas. This will help to avoid a situation existing in the mines, who are hiring people from Maseru and leaving the local communities who by right, own the natural resources. When business operations begin, we would like locals to be the first to be considered for jobs,” Mr Maliehe said.
Considering how the district is close to Durban, South Africa, Mr Maliehe said the prospects for profitable trading between Durban and Butha-Buthe were good.
The LNDC Brand Management and Communications Officer, Lerato Tsoinyane said, construction of the first phase of the industrial estate would be completed in 2020.