Le­sotho gets ‘raw deal’ over LHWP

Lesotho Times - - Feature - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THIRTY years af­ter Le­sotho and South Africa signed the agree­ment on the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP), an at­mos­phere of gloom and de­spon­dency con­tin­ues to en­gulf the country with the Youth League Fo­rum of Le­sotho (YLF) say­ing the en­vis­aged ben­e­fits con­tinue to be a pie in the sky.

Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 4 (1) of the 1986 Treaty, “the pur­pose of the project shall be to en­hance the use of wa­ter of the Senqu/ Or­ange River by stor­ing, reg­u­lat­ing, di­vert­ing and con­trol­ling the flow of Senqu/ Or­ange River and its ef­flu­ent in or­der to ef­fect the de­liv­ery of spec­i­fied quan­ti­ties of the wa­ter to the des­ig­nated out­let point in RSA and by util­is­ing such de­liv­ery sys­tem to gen­er­ate hy­dro-elec­tric power in the King­dom of Le­sotho.”

With this agree­ment, South Africa would solve its wa­ter needs, im­port­ing 70 cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter per sec­ond from Le­sotho for its in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial hub of Jo­han­nes­burg.

On the other hand, Le­sotho would re­ceive much-needed roy­al­ties to im­prove its peo­ple’s liveli­hoods as well as gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity by “util­is­ing such de­liv­ery sys­tem to gen­er­ate hy­dro-elec­tric power.”

Sadly not all th­ese ben­e­fits, par­tic­u­larly the Phase II hy­dro-elec­tric power scheme, have ma­te­ri­alised amid in­di­ca­tions that Le­sotho could have slept on the job al­low­ing South Africa to re­nege on its ear­lier com­mit­ment to pur­chase 70 cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter per sec­ond af­ter the com­ple­tion of the two phases of the project.

In terms of the agree­ment, Le­sotho would pro­vide 70 cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter, with half of this achieved un­der Phase I of the project, and the bal­ance be­ing pro­vided af­ter the com­ple­tion of Phase II which would be un­der­taken si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the con­struc­tion of a hy­dro-elec­tric­ity power gen­er­a­tion project.

South Africa now says it will only re­quire 15 cu­bic me­tres –– a de­vel­op­ment which will af­fect plans to con­struct the hy­dro­elec­tric­ity project as this fig­ure is deemed in­ad­e­quate to sup­port power gen­er­a­tion.

And only now, two years later, is the govern­ment tak­ing steps to re­spond to is­sues raised in 2014 by the anx­ious YLF. Back in 2014, the YLF held a meet­ing with thethen Min­is­ter of En­ergy and Wa­ter Af­fairs Tšeliso Mokhosi and fol­lowed this up with a let­ter ques­tion­ing Le­sotho’s sup­posed ben­e­fits from the LHWP agree­ment.

This set in mo­tion a chain of events cul­mi­nat­ing in last week’s de­ci­sion by the Se­nate to sum­mon the rel­e­vant min­istries — en­ergy and wa­ter — to re­spond to ques­tions raised by the YLF. In the 2014 let­ter writ­ten by YLF board mem­ber Ra­bele Makakole to the Clerk to the Se­nate, sev­eral con­cerns per­tain­ing to the LHWP were raised and he said they needed ur­gent clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

“Th­ese con­cerns are of car­di­nal im­por­tance be­cause they out­line the sig­nif­i­cance and main pur­pose of the 1986 Treaty on The LHWP be­tween South Africa and Le­sotho,” Mr Makakole said.

He sug­gested that there was a con­tra­dic­tion be­tween Ar­ti­cle 4: (1) of the 1986 agree­ment and Ar­ti­cle 8: (2) of a sub­se­quent agree­ment signed in 2011 which would jeop­ar­dise the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of Phase II of the LHWP.

Whereas the 1986 Treaty says that both Le­sotho and South Africa must ben­e­fit from the project by us­ing the wa­ter ex­ported to South Africa to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity, the 2011 Agree­ment put Le­sotho at a dis­ad­van­tage by stat­ing that the elec­tric­ity can only be gen­er­ated if both par­ties agree on the out­come of a joint fea­si­bil­ity study for Phase II of the project.

“The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Kobong pump stor­age scheme is sub­ject to agree­ment on the out­come of a joint fea­si­bil­ity study,” reads Ar­ti­cle 8: (2) of the 2011 Agree­ment.

Mr Makakole also said it was ir­reg­u­lar to go ahead with the con­struc­tion of the dam with­out a com­plete fea­si­bil­ity study on the Kobong Pump-stor­age scheme.

He said the im­pli­ca­tion of the 1986 Treaty was that the de­liv­ery of wa­ter to South Africa and the hy­dropower gen­er­a­tion for Le­sotho were mu­tu­ally in­clu­sive, “mean­ing that, as a mat­ter of law, no com­po­nent should go ahead with­out the other”.

Mr Makakole fur­ther claimed in the let­ter that the-then Min­is­ter of Wa­ter Af­fairs, Mr Mokhosi (now Min­is­ter of De­fense and Na­tional Se­cu­rity) said that there was no “Pur­chase Power Agree­ment” be­tween South Africa’s ESKOM and Le­sotho re­gard­ing the pur­chase of the elec­tric­ity to be gen­er­ated at Kobong.

“This means that the govern­ment does not have a client for the hy­dro-power to be gen­er­ated at Kobong. And this raises the ques­tion of the vi­a­bil­ity of the Kobong Pumped­stor­age hy­dropower gen­er­a­tion project,” Mr Makakole said.

He also in­formed Se­nate that the fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies of the Kobong project were in­com­plete, stat­ing that “there is no fea­si­bil­ity study on the trans­mis­sion sys­tem, only as­sump­tions.”

Mr Makakole fur­ther ques­tioned the af­ford­abil­ity of the Kobong Pumped Stor­age Scheme.

“The govern­ment should clearly state the ex­act amount needed for this project and also clearly state where the fund­ing will come from. The es­ti­mated costs are M8 335, 5 mil­lion and the cost of bor­row­ing is not in­cluded in this amount.

“If money is bor­rowed, it has to be paid back with in­ter­est. The amount of in­ter­est to be paid will be de­ter­mined by the in­ter­est rate set by the lender,” reads part of the let­ter.

Mr Makakole said he be­lieved the cost could ex­ceed the 2014/15 na­tional bud­get which was pegged at M15.754 bil­lion.

In view of this, Mr Makakole said, it was not sur­pris­ing that the 2011 Agree­ment of the LHWP Phase II did not ap­pear to have con­sid­ered the needs of the country.

Mr Makakole also claimed that Le­sotho had only three di­rec­tors on the Le­sotho High­lands De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (LHDA) Board com­pared to South Africa’s five.

“This im­plies that the five South African di­rec­tors are a ma­jor­ity that is el­i­gi­ble to make de­ci­sions in favour of South Africa over the in­ter­ests of Le­sotho. A re­view of this pro­to­col is of vi­tal im­por­tance and in the best in­ter­ests of Le­sotho,” Mr Makakole said.

Hav­ing noted all this, Mr Makakole ques­tioned Le­sotho’s de­ci­sion to go ahead with the sod-turn­ing of the LHWP Phase II project last year in March.

“This (sod-turn­ing) event sug­gests to the peo­ple of Le­sotho and South Africa that ev- ery­thing is well and that the project will go ahead as it is. This act may be con­sid­ered de­cep­tive,” Mr Makakole said.

Min­is­ter of Wa­ters Af­fairs Ralechate ‘Mokose this week held a press brief­ing to ad­dress the YLF’S con­cerns. The min­istry’s Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Kho­moat­sana Tau, Tech­ni­cal Ad­vi­sor to the Min­istry of Wa­ter Af­fairs Ma­supha Sole and Le­sotho rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the LHWP Tšiu Khat­ibe all at­tended.

Mr ‘Mokose said that LHWP was one of the country’s big­gest wa­ter projects and it had been im­ple­mented in stages since the start of Phase I in 1996.

“Phase I A and B were fol­lowed by Phase II — Kobong Project — and this has sparked a lot of in­ter­est and peo­ple are well within their rights to ask ques­tions,” he said.

The min­is­ter said that there had been achieve­ments the country needed to build on mov­ing to Phase II.

He also con­ceded that “there were fur­ther chal­lenges that we need to ad­dress go­ing into Phase II and one is un­able to make im­prove­ments with­out lis­ten­ing to the opinions and con­cerns of our peo­ple”.

He how­ever re­futed the YLF’S claims that South Africa had more rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the LHDA Board, say­ing there is equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

On his part, Mr Tau said the agree­ment was signed to meet both coun­tries’ needs.

“The agree­ment isn’t merely about Le­sotho sell­ing wa­ter to South Africa. What hap­pened is that when SA was try­ing to fight its wa­ter prob­lems, it spear­headed two stud­ies — Or­ange Vaal Trans­fer Scheme (OVTS) in SA and the LHWP in Le­sotho.

Af­ter SA found that the LHWP would cost much less than the OVTS, the two coun­tries then agreed that the cost dif­fer­ence must be a ben­e­fit or sav­ings which the two coun­tries can share,” Mr Tau said.

He said it was then agreed that Le­sotho would get a 56 per­cent ben­e­fit in the form of roy­al­ties while for SA, the LHWP rep­re­sented 44 per­cent cost sav­ings.

He said that in terms of the agree­ment, Le­sotho would pro­vide 70 cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter per sec­ond to SA, with half of this be­ing achieved un­der Phase 1 of the project and the bal­ance be­ing pro­vided af­ter the com­ple­tion of Phase 2 which would be un­der­taken si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the con­struc­tion of the hy­dro-elec­tric­ity power gen­er­a­tion project.

“The Phase II fea­si­bil­ity study brought in the 165-me­tre high Poli­hali dam. Most im­por­tantly for us Ba­sotho was that Le­sotho would have a ‘Muela II — a sec­ond hy­dropower sta­tion pro­duc­ing 80MW.

“We then stud­ied two ways of achiev­ing this, ei­ther erect­ing a tun­nel straight from Poli­hali to ‘Muela or a tun­nel from Katse to ‘Muela,” Mr Tau said.

He how­ever said that it was only dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with SA af­ter com­plet­ing this fea­si­bil­ity study that Le­sotho suf­fered a big blow when the neigh­bor­ing country’s wa­ter needs had changed, and they only re­quired an ad­di­tional 15 cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter per sec­ond in­stead of 35 as en­vis­aged in the agree­ment.

“Phase II was sup­posed to pump in 35 cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter per sec­ond but SA now say they will need only 15 cu­bic me­ters, and that is why we are now build­ing a smaller dam at Poli­hali,” Mr Tau said.

“It was a big blow when SA went on to say that they will only need the 15 cu­bic me­ters 20 years af­ter the con­struc­tion of this dam and this gave us a headache be­cause the treaty says we must also use the wa­ter-de­liv­ery sys­tem to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity. Since they no longer need 35 cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter as ini­tially agreed, we had to come up with an al­ter­na­tive which is the Kobong-pump Stor­age as part of Phase II. We are now work­ing on the Kobong project.”

Mr Tau said the country would still need to find buy­ers for the elec­tric­ity be­cause it was en­vis­aged that the Kobong project would gen­er­ate far more power than the country’s re­quire­ments.

Mr Tau said the Kobong project was ex­pected to gen­er­ate 1200mw, 1000 more than what Le­sotho needs.

He said they were con­duct­ing a mar­ket study along with an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment of Kobong elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion lines con­nec­tiv­ity to ESKOM as well as geotech­ni­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The Min­istry of Wa­ter Af­fairs’ Tech­ni­cal Ad­vi­sor Ma­supha Sole in­sisted all was well and the project would go ahead as planned.

“I’m not blow­ing my own horn, but I led the Le­sotho team dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions and sign­ing of this Treaty hence my vast knowl­edge in th­ese is­sues. Some say that with the Kobong project, the wa­ter trans­ferred to SA will no longer gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity but I must state that the Treaty’s Ar­ti­cle 4 (1) states that wa­ter go­ing into S.A should gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity and that hasn’t changed.”

He also dis­missed per­cep­tions that Le­sotho had al­ways ne­go­ti­ated from a point of vul­ner­a­bil­ity en­abling SA to take ad­van­tage and re­nege on its obli­ga­tions in terms of the 1986 treaty with­out due con­sid­er­a­tion to the neg­a­tive im­pact that could have on Le­sotho.

Mr Sole also said SA had not re­neged on the agree­ment as they had com­mu­ni­cated with Le­sotho who ac­ceded to their re­quest to re­duce their wa­ter re­quire­ments.

“The treaty is very clear that there will be penal­ties if one party brings any changes which were not agreed to by the other party. How­ever, in this sit­u­a­tion we con­ceded that their wa­ter needs had changed and there­fore there are no penal­ties,” Mr Sole said.

“Let me set the record straight. I don’t want to lose my job. You ei­ther didn’t hear me or there was a slip of a tongue, I said I don’t know which of the two coun­tries was sleep­ing and the PS has ex­plained that Le­sotho was not in deep sleep, al­low­ing SA to re­nege.”

PS Tau weighed in say­ing “Le­sotho was not in the deep sleep that you think it was in. There was a time we pushed them.”

He how­ever ap­peared to con­firm that SA had in­deed re­neged on the agree­ment when he re­vealed that the Phase II fea­si­bil­ity study was not car­ried out by the LHDA as per the agree­ment be­cause SA had in­sisted that it did not need the same amount of wa­ter ini­tially stated in the agree­ment.

“This was called a pre-com­mit­ment study where Le­sotho paid half of the costs while SA paid half. Af­ter com­ple­tion, SA said it needed the wa­ter, hence we are con­tin­u­ing with the Poli­hali project.”

While the de­bate about whether Le­sotho was sleep­ing or wide awake all th­ese years con­tin­ues back and forth, what is clear how­ever, is the fact that SA’S re­vised wa­ter needs could well im­pact on the country to reap full ben­e­fits from the LHWP.

“This im­plies that the five South African di­rec­tors are a ma­jor­ity that is el­i­gi­ble to make de­ci­sions in favour of South Africa over the in­ter­ests of Le­sotho. A re­view of this pro­to­col is of vi­tal im­por­tance and in the best in­ter­ests of Le­sotho

WA­TER flow­ing out of the Poli­hali Down­stream Weir which was com­pleted on 17 Oc­to­ber 2013.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.