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‘Maseru Hospital, Ramarothole solar project construction to begin’

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE Chinese contractors and engineers who are supposed to construct the multi-million maloti Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic and the Ha-Ramarothole Solar Power Station will only be able to arrive in the country and start work five months from now.

This according to Development Planning Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, who said the government has only begun processing their visas to enable them to travel to Lesotho.

The two projects have been on the cards for a long time and work has not started as planned due to various factors.

The proposed Chinese-funded Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic will replace the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital which was demolished earlier this year.

The construction of the M800 million hospital was initially scheduled to begin in 2018 but this did not happen due to government delays in demolishing the old Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. The delays were largely due to the bickering between the ministries of Health and that of Public Works over the costs of demolishing the hospital.

The Ministry of Public Works had said the job would cost M29 million while the health ministry said it would cost M16 million. The impasse was eventually resolved after the health ministry convinced nine companies that had won the M29 million Public Works tender to do the job for a reduced cost of M16 million. They only carried out the job in April which was much later than the January 2020 deadline set by the Chinese government for the demolition of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.

The much bigger Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic is expected to benefit at least 400 000 people in Maseru and other districts.

It is not clear why the solar power project has stalled.

Presenting the 2020/21 budget speech in February this year, then Finance Minister (now prime minister) Moeketsi Majoro, said the Ha-Ramarothole solar project would start this year.

Dr Majoro said the government had secured funding for the project from the China Exim Bank. He however, did not disclose the amount.

He said that two solar power stations, one owned and operated by a new government entity, and another to be run by a private company, 1Power, would be constructed during the current financial year in Ha-Ramarothole, Mafeteng.

The Chinese Embassy’s Economic and Commercial Counsellor, Ma Guoliang, subsequently told this publication that the Lesotho government was negotiating with his country for a M2 billion loan for the solar energy project expected to produce 70 megawatts of electricity.

This will go a long way in reducing electricity imports from South Africa and Mozambique which currently stand at 84 megawatts per day. All in all, Lesotho consumes 156 megawatts per day and only 72 megawatts (MW) are generated at the ‘Muela Hydro-Power Station in the Leribe district.

Speaking on the projects this week, Mr Mochoboroane said the projects were “ill-conceived and politically motivated” hence the delays in implementing them.

“The Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic and Ramarothole solar projects have been included in the last three financial budgets,” Mr Mochoboroane said in an interview with the Sunday Express.

“But I have realised that some of these projects were politically motivated hence they are taking longer to be implemented because of their top-down approach.

“Funding was sourced prematurely without following the proper procedures. These two are some of the many overdue projects but I hope they will soon be implemented.

“I hope that within five months, there will be movement on the ground as far as implementation is concerned. We have already secured engineers from China for the Ramarothole project and we are working on their visas.

“Our expectation is that the Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic will soon send their list of contractors who will come over so that we can also prepare their visas. Once international travel is allowed, the work will begin,” Mr Mochoboroane said.

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