LHDA digs in on com­pen­sa­tion

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THE LE­SOTHO High­lands Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (LHDA) will not back down on its plan to award 50-year com­pen­sa­tion to com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by Phase Two of the Le­sotho High­lands Water Project (LHWP).

The high­light of LHWP Phase II will be the construction of Poli­hali Dam in Mokhot­long.

Construction of the dam is ex­pected to be­gin in 2019 and ac­cord­ing to the 1986 Treaty be­tween South Africa and Le­sotho, af­fected com­mu­ni­ties should be com­pen­sated for re­lo­ca­tion and losses in­curred due to the project.

Some mem­bers of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties had de­manded life­time or 99-year com­pen­sa­tion — a re­quest shot down by the LHDA dur­ing a press brief­ing held in Maseru yes­ter­day.

“The is­sue of life­time com­pen­sa­tion is out. Let’s not pre­tend over this mat­ter,” LHDA’S Ger­rard Mokone said.

“This has never hap­pened any­where in the world and we don’t think it’s go­ing to hap­pen here. Some­times we have to face the facts and we must en­sure or­di­nary cit­i­zens un­der­stand this in­stead of push­ing them to make such de­mands.”

Mr Mokone said the 50-year com­pen­sa­tion of­fer was fi­nal, adding the deal was above board as it con­formed with Le­sotho’s laws.

Mr Mokone said con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, gov­ern­ment had de­cided on the 50 years com­pen­sa­tion on the ba­sis of stud­ies con­ducted by dif­fer­ent bod­ies, in­clud­ing the World Bank.

He also said it was important for the na­tion to know that gov­ern­ment had the right to re­pos­sess land from in­di­vid­u­als for public pur­poses and com­pen­sate for the loss.

“It is stated in the con­sti­tu­tion and in the Land Act but there is no spec­i­fied du­ra­tion (for com­pen­sa­tion) in all th­ese le­gal frame­works. It is only stated that the com­pen­sa­tion must be prompt and fair,” he said.

He added com­pen­sa­tion could be de­ter- mined on the ba­sis of mar­ket value as per the Land Ad­min­is­tra­tion Au­thor­ity (LAA).

He said mar­ket val­ues were also de­ter­mined by the lo­ca­tion of the land in ques­tion­whether it was ru­ral or ur­ban, busi­ness or res­i­den­tial.

Mr Mokone also said the me­dia had ex­ag­ger­ated the Mokhot­long com­mu­ni­ties’ com­plaints about com­pen­sa­tion.

“I am aware that you at­tended two public gath­er­ings in Mokhot­long last week. You can’t con­clude from two public gath­er­ings that peo­ple are com­plain­ing be­cause that is not a true re­flec­tion of what is hap­pen­ing on the ground. “The com­mu­ni­ties agree with us that com­pen­sa­tion must not be given to in­di­vid­u­als. They only have a prob­lem with their money

be­ing given to the coun­cils,” he said.

Speak­ing at the same press brief­ing, LHDA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Re­filoe Tlali said the project would go ahead with or with­out the public’s buy-in.

“We will con­tinue with the project. This is a big project be­tween two coun­tries. How­ever, we will con­sider the public’s opin­ions to an ex­tent,” Ms Tlali said.

She also said the au­thor­ity would not give com­pen­sa­tion di­rectly to af­fected in­di­vid­u­als as do­ing so would be ir­re­spon­si­ble.

“LHDA would be an ir­re­spon­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion if it con­tin­ued to pay com­mu­nal com­pen­sa­tion di­rectly to in­di­vid­u­als when experience has taught us that there has been no ac­count­abil­ity in Phase 1A and 1B.

“In the past, some peo­ple used the com­mu­nal com­pen­sa­tion money to buy things like trucks, some opened shops and out of the 10 liveli­hood restora­tion projects, only one sur­vived,” Ms Tlali said.

She added: “Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity have ac­cepted LHDA’S new pol­icy that the com­mu­nal com­pen­sa­tion money must not be given di­rectly to in­di­vid­u­als.”

Un­der the new pol­icy, the com­pen­sa­tion would be held in trust by LHDA and com­mu­ni­ties would ap­proach their coun­cils with pro­pos­als of com­mu­nal needs, for ex­am­ple, clin­ics and schools. The money would then be re­leased to fund such in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ments.

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