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Ray of light for Phahameng villages

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…as LEC launches M14, 9 million rural electrification project

Moorosi Tsiane

QUTHING- FIFTEEN years of pain and darkness will soon be yesterday’s news for the Phahameng community in Quthing. This after the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) launched a programme to electrify their villages on Thursday.

The project, estimated to cost M14 978 000, is part of the LEC’s rural electrification programme. It is envisaged that by January 2022, all nine villages in the area will be electrified.

The project was launched by the Minister of Energy and Meteorology Mohapi Mohapinyane in Ha Ntho, Phahameng. Present at the ceremony were the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kemiso Mosenene, Moyeni member of parliament, Mahooana Khati and other senior government officials.

The nine villages which will benefit from the project are Matebeleng Ha Maduna, Sehlabeng, Thaba Chitja, Lekhalong, Sekantshing, Ha Mokola, Ha Makoqoqo, Ha Ntho and Hekeng. In all there are 677 households in the area and these had joined in the Rural Electrification Project way back in 2006.

Each household contributed M2000 for the installation of electricity with the government expected to pay a subsidy of M12 000 per household.

According to one of the villagers, Mantsebeng Qhotsi, the project brought nothing but pain to their families ever since it was started and left unfinished by the contractor, Steve’s Electrics.

“We started this scheme in 2006 because like any other villages close to towns, we felt a need to have electricity,” Ms Qhotsi said in an interview with the Sunday Express.

“We opened a bank account at one of the local banks where we kept the money.”

She said their problems began when the contractor disappeared without explanation in 2009.

“This project was launched and the contractor began his work but to our surprise the work stopped in 2009 and there was no explanation why everything came to sudden stop.

“In the meantime, other villagers had their electricity connected. Our fellow villagers lost faith in us who were in the committee in charge of the project. They accused us of misusing their money.”

Ms Qhotsi said their children were also subjected to police brutality as they were suspected to have cut down electric poles in other villages.

It is alleged that the contractor stopped work because the government was not paying him as he had not been given an official contract but only had a letter of intent. He then decided to sup-end work until everything had been finalised.

It is only now that work is resuming and Ms Qhotsi is a relieved person after the Thursday launch of the project.

“We are happy that our patience will be rewarded and we will finally get electricity,” she said on the side-lines of the launch of the project.

“People had already lost interest because this project has been delayed for far too long but as the committee, we persisted in trying to revive it. We are happy that finally our patience is paying,” Ms Qhotsi said.

Phahameng councillor Motlalepula Masoabi echoed Ms Qhotsi’s sentiments, saying they were happy that the project will finally start.

“The truth of the matter is that we have been dealing with very angry villagers and understandably so because they were let down. But we are happy that there is finally progress on this project after a long time.

“To our minister, we plead with you to ensure that what happened before will not happen again because the project must be completed,” Mr Masoabi said.

On his part, MP Khati of the Democratic Congress (DC) party, said his people should forget about their past suffering and look forward to the completion of the project.

“I am very happy that today we are launching this project because I know how painful it has been for the Phahameng community. I am also grateful that despite your pain, you still had patience and you will finally be getting electricity.

“I would also like to thank our minister of energy, Ntate Mohapinyane, for responding to our pleas. It has not been easy but I persisted because I knew how important this was to you. It was very disappointing to see other villages getting electricity and you being shunned yet you were among the first groups to register for this project.

“The government should always deliver on its promises regardless of who is in power because at the end of the day the government is not for only those who voted them in power. Politics shouldn’t be used to punish people. It is time we politicians stopped cheap politics and served the people,” Mr Khati said.

On his part, Mr Mohapinyane said, “we are very disappointed with the incidents that unfolded here. I know it is not easy but we are grateful for your patience and finally this project will start.

“It is also important that when promises have been made, we should come back and report to the people. In this case, we should make it clear that it wasn’t the contractor’s fault that things didn’t go as planned.

“So, we own up to our mistakes and urge you to allow the contractor to do the job. He is expected to start immediately and the project should be completed 5 January 2022,” Mr Mohapinyane said.

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