In a strongly-worded public debate held in Maseru on Monday, Tsikoane Peshoane, the Executive Director of Transformation Resource Centre, sent a stern warning to the Minister of Natural Resources, Mohlomi Moleko.
Peshoane expressed his frustration over Molekoâ€™s failure to respond to his request for a meeting to discuss critical matters, including the compensation scheme and the role of mines in community development.
The public debate aimed to shed light on pressing issues within the mining sector, focusing on Lesothoâ€™s mining compliance and its economic impact.
Peshoane emphasised the need for structural changes in legal frameworks to ensure meaningful reforms.
He raised concerns about Molekoâ€™s unresponsiveness to his requests.
â€œI wrote to the Minister and this is the second month; requesting him to have a meeting to talk about the compensation scheme, until now you have not done that,â€ he said.
He also highlighted the importance of discussing how mines can contribute to the development of communities residing in close proximity to mining areas.
â€œI wanted us to talk about how the mines can best contribute to the development of the community affected by the mines. Look at the road from Ha-Lejone to Kao where there are plenty of mines, but you have not honoured my call. I want to tell you that until you do that, todayâ€™s exercise will not bring anything fruitful,â€ he said.
Peshoane warned that without a commitment to bring about significant changes in legal frameworks, any efforts made would yield little result.
He pointed out that policies alone would not make a difference unless accompanied by genuine changes.
Teboho Mojapela, the leader of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR), echoed Peshoaneâ€™s sentiments and added that mines are contaminating water sources for villagers living nearby, leading to health issues.
Mojapela questioned whether the presence of mines was improving the lives of Basotho or exacerbating their situations, referring to observations made during a tour conducted by the National Assemblyâ€™s Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources.
Mojapela expressed concern that Basotho living near the mines were not benefiting, and he criticised the disproportionate advantages enjoyed by a select few.
â€œIf you can travel around you will be surprised that Basotho living close to the mines are poorer than everyone,â€ Mojapela said.
â€œWhile we were touring around the mines with the Natural Resources Committee, I visited the villagers; they complain that their houses break and when they protest, soldiers are called to silence them,â€ he added.
He also highlighted the plight of villagers in Liqhobong who were protesting due to the lack of community inclusion in mine-related opportunities.
â€œThese mines are destroying Basotho livelihoods; when the rains fall, water becomes contaminated because of the mines. So the communities there complain that instead of helping, the mines contaminate their water,â€ he said.
Moleko acknowledged Mojapelaâ€™s concerns and stated that discussions were necessary to address challenges faced by communities close to mining areas.
He emphasised the importance of understanding the communitiesâ€™ needs and intentions for community development.
He agreed that the current system of placing mining royalties into a consolidated fund needed reevaluation, with potential consideration for a percentage to directly benefit affected local communities.
â€œIt is a valid point and we will have a meeting to talk about this matter,â€ he said.
The dialogue highlighted the need for improved communication between stakeholders in the mining sector to ensure that communitiesâ€™ interests are addressed, and their voices are heard in matters of economic development and resource extraction.