Villagers demand compensation
. . . as mine exhumes bodies near operations
KOLO – THE exhumation and relocation of bodies from an old graveyard in Ha Petlane in Mafeteng district has torched a storm with the relatives demanding compensation from Reskol Diamonds Mining for “disturbing their departed ancestors”.
The mine exhumed 30 corpses from a graveyard within the area of its operations and reburied them at a new location just outside the village.
The mass re-burial ceremony was attended by the Minister of Mining, Keketso Sello; Minister of Local Government, Habofanoe Lehana; Member of Parliament for Kolo, Putsoane Leeto and Michael Molefe (‘Maliepetsane legislator); Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) representatives; mine representatives and community members including relatives of the dead.
One of the village elders, Hlalefang Tšoeu told the Sunday Express during the mass re-burials that exhumations were emotionally draining for the families of the dead and warranted some form of compensation from the mine.
“The exhumation and relocation of the graves is a traumatising experience for the relatives of the departed and this has opened up old wounds that had begun to heal,” Mr Tšoeu said.
“So, I think the issue of compensation should be considered by those in authority so that whenever the remains of our ancestors are disturbed in this manner there is something the affected families get.”
Another elder Mosala Ramosala Hlapolosa said, “The affected families should be comforted because they have gone through emotional torment during the processes leading up to the exhumation and re-burials and it is only fair that they be given something”.
Another villager, Lesole Thulo, said they expected to be compensated for the disturbance of their ancestral ground.
Compensation in Lesotho normally applies in cases where communities stand to losses assets and income from any commercial and related activities.
Speaking at the event, Mining Minister Sello promised to meet with the mine management and the community liaison committee to gain a greater understanding of the outstanding issues between the mine and the community.
For his part, TRC Director, Tsikoane Peshoane, called on the mine to compensate the community who have been affected by mining operations.
“Different mining companies have been to this place but the issue of compensation for affected community members has not happened and the people continue to suffer,” Mr Peshoane said.
He also said it was surprising that two environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies done through the Ministry of tourism, environment and culture, failed to establish that there were still graves in the mining area.
Lehana Mpete, who spoke on behalf of the chief of Ha Petlane, said after the exhumations, they expected the mine operations to intensify and lead to more jobs for locals.
For his part, MP Putsoane Leeto said the community should focus on negotiating with Reskol to help them meet their basic needs including access roads, electricity and water connections which were currently a challenge.
Reskol Mine representative, Joseph Mabote, said theirs was to bring development to the area and they were counting on the guidance of the community.
He said it was therefore important for the community to approach them particularly to iron out any outstanding issues so that the mining operations could be beneficial to both parties.