Monday, May 20, 2024
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‘Victims’ of LHDA Projects Cry Foul


Ntsoaki Motaung

‘Victims’ of the Lesotho Highlands Development Project (LHDA) who were relocated from their home places during the construction of Katse and Mohale Dam cry foul, stating that they have been neglected by LHDA.

This sentiment was emphasized by one of the victims, Mothibeli Manase, who was relocated from Mohale to Maseru Ha Tsolo.

Manase says he does not have any means of livelihood, and life has been exceedingly difficult for him following the relocation.

“I was placed here without any farming land and other natural resources that made our living much easier in the highlands. I am now also supposed to pay for water, which I did not pay for before. I do not have money for that, meaning my tab has been dry for the longest time now because I have no money,” he said.

Responding to what compensation he has been receiving from LHDA, Manase indicated that he only receives between M2,000 and M4,000 per year as compensation, which is supposed to last him a year.

“That M2,000 or M4,000 is very small for someone to live on for a year. Apart from that, we get it after sweating for it to be released. Last time I went to LHDA to demand my compensation, I had to threaten that I would not leave their offices without my money, even if it meant that they locked me inside the offices,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President of the Policy Environmental Justice and Water Resources Advocacy (PEWA), Mohato Morokole, said since the beginning of the projects, the communities were not involved in the decision-making processes, hence they feel like they were forced to relocate.

“We were not part of LHDA’s strategic policies; they were imposed on us, and our opinions were not taken seriously. The policies are only for the benefit of LHDA, not the affected people,” he said.

Marokole said members of the relocated community wanted their kids’ education to be paid for by LHDA until they completed their studies but the LHDA never implemented their plea. 

“We had requested what we think we deserve, including consolation money for our lifetime every month, not for 50 years as LHDA is doing,” he said.

According to Morokole, it has been 25 years since the communities were relocated, and their lives have gone from better to worse.

‘Mathabelang Mpheteng, who was also relocated to Maseru Ha Tsolo, says they are unable to hold LHDA liable through the courts of law because they do not have money to handle the legal fees.

She said on top of that, they cannot take LHDA to court because it is obvious to them that they will lose the case, and LHDA will continue with its actions.

The Public Relations Officer for LHDA, Malakeng Hloma, indicated that the project is aware of the association claiming to represent the communities of the affected people but does not know which people they are representing.

He said LHDA has maintained a good relationship with the affected people from their communities.

Hloma indicated that affected people are always consulted whenever there is a need.

He made an example that before LHDA could hold the National Stakeholder Conference for their strategic plan, mini-conferences were held in the affected areas where communities laid out their concerns and what they needed to be done going forward.

“It was during those mini-conferences where representation from the communities was chosen to attend the National conference where they made sure that they voiced what needs to change and the way forward. I do not know if the association complaining today was there. If they were there, they would know that our relationship with the communities is strong, and we are doing things as we had agreed,” he said.

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