Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Water talks set for next month

Staff Reporter

MASERU — Negotiations between South Africa and Lesotho on a revised agreement of the second phase of the Highlands Water Project are set to begin in Lesotho early next month.
A fortnight ago South Africa agreed to Lesotho’s request to renegotiate some parts of the agreement which was signed by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government in August 2011.
The water project includes the construction of Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong and a power station.
Getting South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to agree to renegotiate the water deal was seen as a major victory for Prime Minister Tom Thabane.
But observers say the real challenge will come when the two countries start thrashing out key details of the new agreement which is supposed to be signed in Lesotho by the end of June.
Sources say there are already concerns in the government that Lesotho’s negotiating team is not strong enough to match the South African team which is assisted by experts who have worked on the project since the 1980s.
“The real challenge will be on constituting the team that will get what Lesotho really wants,” said a senior government official.
He said although South Africa has agreed to renegotiate it does not mean that it has given up its fight for a better deal.
At a meeting in Pretoria earlier this month, Zuma agreed to Thabane’s demand that power generation be confirmed as an integral part of the second phase of the project.
Zuma also agreed that the governance of the project should reflect that the project is owned by Lesotho.
Those concessions, according to some observers, are critical but do not mean that Lesotho had won the battle.
There are still a number of issues that have to be discussed before a new deal can be signed.
A government official said Lesotho believes that the 2011 agreement still gives more weight to the supply of water than the generation of power for Lesotho.
Lesotho, he said, strongly feels that the two components of power generation and water supply should be given the same weight.
He said Lesotho still wants South Africa to pay tax during the implementation of the project.
In the 2011 agreement Lesotho had agreed to South Africa’s demands to be exempted from paying tax on the capital it spends during the implementation of the project.
Lesotho still has concerns over the plan in the previous agreement to establish a project management unit within the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), the institution that implements the project.
The unit will be made up of consultants who will be managing the project.
The officials said the government feels that the unit will weaken Lesotho’s control of the project.
“The government feels that the project management unit will be like an LHDA within the LHDA,” the official said.

Comments are closed.