‘LHDA has peo­ple’s best in­ter­ests’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE gov­ern­ments of Le­sotho and South African last week ap­proved the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP) Phase II Com­pen­sa­tion Pol­icy, giv­ing project im­ple­menters the go-ahead to ap­point con­sul­tants and con­trac­tors to as­sist with the ex­e­cu­tion of the pol­icy.

The ap­proval came at a time when the LHWP’S im­ple­ment­ing agency, Le­sotho High­lands De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (LHDA), had been un­der fire for al­legedly ig­nor­ing the “le­git­i­mate” de­mands by Mokhot­long com­mu­ni­ties that will be af­fected by the con­struc­tion of Poli­hali Dam en­vis­aged to com­mence in 2019.

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, LHDA Poli­hali Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Ger­ard Mokone talks to Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter Pas­cali­nah Kabi on the sig­nif­i­cance of the Phase II Com­pen­sa­tion Pol­icy ap­proval among other is­sues.

LT: Is it true the Le­sotho and South African gov­ern­ments ap­proved the LHWP Phase II Com­pen­sa­tion Pol­icy?

Mokone: The Phase II Com­pen­sa­tion Pol­icy was fi­nally ap­proved fol­low­ing a very long pro­cess of en­gag­ing var­i­ous stake­hold­ers dur­ing its prepa­ra­tion.

The ap­proval means we now have to dis­close it to the peo­ple and en­gage them.

LT: What does the pol­icy en­tail?

Mokone: We started with a draft that was pre­pared by LHWP. Our ba­sis for pre­par­ing the draft be­fore we could go out to the stake­hold­ers was to ad­dress the Phase II Agree­ment which states the Phase I Com­pen­sa­tion Pol­icy must be used as a ba­sis for de­vel­op­ing the Phase II Com­pen­sa­tion Pol­icy.

This was be­cause we were sup­posed to look at the lessons learnt dur­ing the Phase I im­ple­men­ta­tion, par­tic­u­larly on so­cial and en­vi­ron­ment is­sues — specif­i­cally on com­pen­sa­tion and re­set­tle­ment is­sues.

The pol­icy took into con­sid­er­a­tion Phase II’S fea­si­bil­ity study re­sults. We also con­sulted the en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­perts’ panel who help us with their in-depth knowl­edge based on global ex­pe­ri­ences in the field of com­pen­sa­tion and re­set­tle­ment.

We also looked into some of the prin­ci­ples pro­vided by the World Bank as they deal with com­pen­sa­tion and re­set­tle­ment is­sues.

The draft fur­ther looked into new laws in this coun­try which were not put into place af­ter Phase 1 was com­pleted. The pol­icy is guided by the in­vol­un­tary re­set­tle­ment prin­ci­ples which seek to min­imise land ac­qui­si­tion and re­set­tle­ments to en­sure that the neg­a­tive im­pacts on the af­fected peo­ple are avoided or min­imised.

Our un­der­stand­ing is that re­set­tle­ments have both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive im­pacts. It is also im­por­tant for LHDA to in­form peo­ple about the project. We will en­sure the af­fected peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in the plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project as much as pos­si­ble.

The ob­jec­tive is to im­prove the liveli­hoods of the af­fected peo­ple, but where we fail to do that, we will en­sure by all means pos­si­ble we at least re­store their liveli­hoods.

An­other chal­lenge we had in the past, and which we are go­ing to ad­dress in Phase II, is the prompt pro­vi­sion of com­pen­sa­tion for the loss of as­sets at­trib­uted to the project.

It is crit­i­cal to en­sure the af­fected peo­ple get their com­pen­sa­tion on time. We will also work hard to en­sure sites are iden­ti­fied for the pro­vi­sion of hous­ing sup­port (res­i­den­tial), re­place­ment hous­ing or mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion.

The af­fected peo­ple will help us iden­tify ar­eas they would like to re­lo­cate to. We don’t com­pel peo­ple to move to cer­tain ar­eas. Yes, the project would have iden­ti­fied re­set­tle­ment or re­lo­ca­tion sites. But those are cho­sen in con­sul­ta­tion with the af­fected house­holds.

We in­tend to de­velop such ar­eas in terms of roads con­struc­tion, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion ser­vices. It is also the choice of each house­hold to move out of Mokhot­long district, but we strongly ad­vise peo­ple against mov­ing to Maseru. We have seen in the Phase I project where peo­ple moved from Likala­neng to places like Makhoakho­eng and Thet­sane re­sult­ing in a big change in their meth­ods of liveli­hoods.

Based on this, we ad­vise peo­ple to move up slope un­der the same chief­tain­ship, coun­cil and im­por­tantly un­der the same neigh­bour­hood.

LT: Which laws come into play in this pol­icy?

Mokone: Im­por­tantly we com­ply with the treaty when draft­ing the pol­icy, the Phase II Agree­ment, LHDA Or­der, LHWP Com­pen­sa­tion Reg­u­la­tion and im­por­tantly the Le­sotho Con­sti­tu­tion.

There are also new laws which were not in place dur­ing Phase I im­ple­men­ta­tion like the Land Act of 2010. If you look at the act’s Part 10 sec­tion 56, it cov­ers is­sues of com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion of land.

The act says: “In all cases in which the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this act re­sults in com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion of the prop­erty, the per­son de­prived of such prop­erty shall be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion at mar­ket value.”

Al­though we are bas­ing our­selves on the law, we are do­ing even bet­ter than what the law pro­vides in a sense that the Land Act clearly states there is no mar­ket value in ru­ral ar­eas; mak­ing sec­tion 56 gen­er­ally not ap­pli­ca­ble to com­pen­sa­tion for Phase II on land, houses and trees in the ar­eas af­fected by the project.

The law does not pro­vide for com­pen­sa­tion over years, but the LHWP has ac­cepted peo­ple’s re­quest to com­pen­sate them over years in­stead of once-off lump sum.

They ar­gued that based on min­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing re­tire­ment, they would pre­fer to get their com­pen­sa­tion over a long pe­riod, and as a project we set­tled for a pe­riod of 50 years.

LT: What does the ap­proval of the pol­icy mean to peo­ple af­fected by the project?

Mokone: We have to go back to the peo­ple to help them un­der­stand the pol­icy and how it is go­ing to be ap­plied. I be­lieve in the next two to three weeks we will go back to the com­mu­ni­ties and dis­cuss the ap­proved pol­icy with them and other stake­hold­ers.

Dur­ing our past dis­cus­sions, af­fected com­mu­ni­ties voiced their con­cerns and we took them to the au­thor­i­ties. How­ever, there are two or three is­sues we did not agree on. We had al­ready in­formed them about is­sues that were not ap­proved, and we will once again go back to the com­mu­ni­ties to en­sure we all share the same un­der­stand­ing dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this pol­icy.

We will or­gan­ise work­shops for trusted com­mu­nity lead­ers who will then share this with the com­mu­ni­ties. LHWP will also go to dif­fer­ent vil­lages to dis­cuss the pol­icy.

The ap­proval of the pol­icy means there will be land ac­qui­si­tion and re­set­tle­ment man­age­ment — mean­ing in ac­quir­ing the land, LHDA will com­ply with the le­gal frame­work when ac­quir­ing peo­ple’s as­sets.

We will have per­ma­nent land ac­qui­si­tion like land re­quired for the reser­voir; es­tab­lish­ment of the vil­lage (sim­i­lar to that of Mo­hale, Katse and Lik­ing vil­lages), and con­struc­tion of roads.

How­ever, as a car­ing project, ac­cess will be granted to in­di­vid­u­als who have a need to use such land ac­quired per­ma­nently and com­pen­sated. For in­stance, dam de­mar­ca­tion has al­ready been done, and it is go­ing to be 2 075 me­tres above sea level. But to pro­tect the dam and other things, the de­mar­ca­tion is 2 080 me­tres above sea level. You will find that the ex­cess land can still be used for graz­ing ar­eas and peo­ple will con­tinue to have ac­cess to that land.

We will still al­low peo­ple to fish and op­er­ate their boats.

On the is­sue of pow­er­line servi­tudes, we are go­ing to pull elec­tric­ity from the Mat­soku site to Poli­hali and all per­ma­nent loss for the con­struc­tion of the pow­er­line will be com­pen­sated ac­cord­ing to the pro­vi­sions of the pol­icy.

Pro­vi­sions state that as far as pos­si­ble we will avoid per­ma­nent land ac­qui­si­tion to min­imise im­pacts. We will there­fore avoid res­i­den­tial places and this does not mean we will be run­ning away from connecting peo­ple to the elec­tric­ity.

This is go­ing to be a high-pow­ered elec­tric­ity volt­age but it can also be trapped down by the Le­sotho Elec­tric­ity Author­ity.

How­ever, where the pow­er­line runs over farm­ing land that will be ac­quired the own­ers will be given around 50 per­cent com­pen­sa­tion as they would still be able to ac­cess their fields but not al­lowed to plant trees taller than three me­tres, store ex­plo­sives or build any struc­tures.

The LHWP is re­ally try­ing to com­pen­sate for ev­ery­thing that may stop peo­ple from us­ing the land as they had done in the past.

On top of the base­line study we have con- ducted, we are also go­ing to do an­other so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus anal­y­sis of the peo­ple di­rectly af­fected by the project. Base­line was more gen­eral to the pop­u­la­tion of the af­fected ar­eas. As per the fea­si­bil­ity study re­sults, there are 534 di­rectly af­fected house­holds.

Lt: Has the Phase II Com­pen­sa­tion Pol­icy taken into con­sid­er­a­tion is­sues raised by or­di­nary ci­ti­zens and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions?

Mokone: As in­di­cated ear­lier, there was a long pro­cess of con­sult­ing and giv­ing feed­back. One thing we should al­ways re­mem­ber is con­sul­ta­tions don’t nec­es­sar­ily mean agree­ing with each other. There are sit­u­a­tions where we agree to dis­agree and there are very few is­sues where we dis­agreed dur­ing the com­pen­sa­tion pol­icy con­sul­ta­tions.

We ba­si­cally failed to reach an agree­ment on the is­sue of du­ra­tion of com­pen­sa­tion. Maybe there are some peo­ple who are still wor­ried about this mat­ter, but I am con­fi­dent we did jus­tice to con­sul­ta­tion and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion pro­cesses.

We also failed to reach an agree­ment on is­sues of share crop­pers. It was sug­gested that peo­ple shar­ing crop­ping should be treated as land own­ers and equally be com­pen­sated but we flatly re­fused, say­ing only land own­ers would be com­pen­sated.

How­ever, in a sit­u­a­tion where we ac­quire land when there are still crops on the farm, we will give a cer­tain per­cent­age to the block farmer be­cause we com­pen­sate on the loss of a stand­ing crop.

I must also men­tion the project will en­sure share crop­pers are in­cluded in the liveli­hood restora­tion pro­gramme – giv­ing peo­ple liveli­hood skills and our un­der­stand­ing is that we must give share crop­pers other means of liveli­hood. It is much more im­por­tant than com­pen­sa­tion be­cause we are giv­ing peo­ple liveli­hood skills ap­pli­ca­ble dur­ing and af­ter project im­ple­men­ta­tion.

On the is­sue of re­set­tle­ment, the project gave in to a de­mand that house­holds must be at lib­erty to choose their own build­ing ma­te­ri­als like stones in­stead of bricks. House­holds also have an op­tion of look­ing for their own builders who will be paid by the project. If their fees are less than the project’s bud­get, the sur­plus will be given to the house­hold.

In a sit­u­a­tion where a mem­ber of the af­fected house­hold is a builder, the project will hand-over the labour money to the fam­ily with­out any hes­i­ta­tion. The project’s man­date is to only en­sure the houses are of the re­quired stan­dards.

LT: As per the pol­icy, there are some peo­ple who will only be af­fected by the project in 2018. Can they still de­velop their land in an­tic­i­pa­tion their com­pen­sa­tion money will in­crease?

Mokone: Un­til a cut-off date is an­nounced, peo­ple are free to use their al­ready al­lo­cated land as they please. How­ever, there is a re­stric­tion on new land or site al­lo­ca­tion in the project area de­clared by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho as se­lected for pub­lic pur­poses as well as the Phase II LHWP scheme area. In those cases, we have to be con­sulted. The cut­off date will be an­nounced and that would mean no more de­vel­op­ments even on al­ready al­lo­cated land.

There will come a time for as­set reg­is­tra­tion and we will reg­is­ter all the as­sets we found dur­ing that time. All the as­sets regis- tered dur­ing that time will be com­pen­sated for their loss.

LT: Does the Phase II pol­icy ad­dress some of the chal­lenges recorded in the first phase?

Mokone: We have the liveli­hoods restora­tion pro­gramme. As a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple, be­fore peo­ple re­ceive their com­pen­sa­tion money, they should be equipped with the ca­pac­ity to han­dle money. Fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy and man­age­ment cour­ses will be of­fered to the ben­e­fi­cia­ries. We will take time to train peo­ple on th­ese mat­ters, in­clud­ing in­vest­ments and gen­eral use of money.

LT: What is your re­ac­tion to an al­le­ga­tion put for­ward by non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOS) that LHDA al­ways has an up­per hand dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­cause of their lawyers?

Mokone: For me, the is­sue of lawyers does not hold wa­ter. We have lawyers work­ing in the project to serve the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple. Their work is only to en­sure we op­er­ate within the con­straints of law. The lawyers don’t ne­go­ti­ate with peo­ple; we do the ne­go­ti­at­ing. Be­lieve it or not, we are not work­ing for South Africa. We are Ba­sotho, and have the peo­ple’s best in­ter­ests at heart. We al­ways in­vite NGOS to our pub­lic gath­er­ings so they see for them­selves that lawyers are not ne­go­ti­at­ing with peo­ple.

LT: Would you say the pol­icy is gen­der sen­si­tive in a sense that it al­lows women and chil­dren to ben­e­fit from com­pen­sa­tion monies?

Mokone: Is­sues of Le­gal Ca­pac­ity of Mar­ried Persons Act (2006) were noted in the pol­icy. Dur­ing the reg­is­tra­tion of peo­ple’s prop­er­ties or as­sets, we make sure the spouses ben­e­fit. We will not al­low a sit­u­a­tion where a man or woman comes on their own to reg­is­ter a prop­erty.

They will have to come to­gether un­less they pro­duce a let­ter from the chief ex­plain­ing in de­tail why the spouse is not avail­able.

LT: Do you have a mech­a­nism un­der the pol­icy to en­sure com­mu­nity lead­ers don’t work in ca­hoots with un­scrupu­lous peo­ple to de­fraud the right­ful ben­e­fi­cia­ries of their com­pen­sa­tion?

Mokone: Yes. The pol­icy does not only con­sider mar­ried peo­ple or spouses but there is also a Chil­dren’s Pro­tec­tion and Wel­fare Act of 2011. This caters for chil­dren in the event their par­ents died and on their own.

As­sets reg­is­tra­tion and ac­qui­si­tion will be done in the pres­ence of the land own­ers, lo­cal author­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tives and li­ai­son com­mu­nity com­mit­tee mem­bers. Peo­ple will be ex­pected to bring along own­er­ship doc­u­ments in the form a lease, Form C or proof of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Now that the pol­icy has been ap­proved, we are go­ing to en­gage the Ministry of Home Af­fairs to reg­is­ter peo­ple ahead of the land ac­qui­si­tion to avoid de­lays in com­pen­sat­ing peo­ple. When reg­is­ter­ing the prop­er­ties, we will record state­ments both on writ­ten and video forms to pro­duce in fu­ture when con­fronted with false claims.

For in­stance, if the hus­band is still alive and work­ing out of town, we will de­mand the wife pro­duces a let­ter from the chief de­tail­ing rea­sons for his ab­sen­teeism. We will also de­mand ev­i­dence from the coun­cil, neigh­bours and com­mu­nity li­ai­son com­mit­tees; a let­ter from the ab­sent spouse and their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments.

Part V of the Chil­dren’s Pro­tec­tion and Wel­fare Act states the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the prop­erty of chil­dren by the Of­fice of the Mas­ter of the High Court and we will en­sure that or­phaned chil­dren get what’s right­fully due to them. We have a good ex­pe­ri­ence with the Phase I where the Of­fice of the Mas­ter of the High Court is han­dling or­phaned chil­dren’s prop­er­ties.

LT: Will we see the project re­spect­ing cul­tural prac­tices es­pe­cially in terms of grave re­lo­ca­tion?

Mokone: We will re­spect cul­tural and re­li­gious prac­tices in any pos­si­ble way we can. Ex­ist­ing cul­tural and re­li­gious prac­tices will be pre­served and re­spected to the max­i­mum ex­tent pos­si­ble. For in­stance, we will en­gage the peo­ple on grave re­lo­ca­tions and other im­por­tant re­li­gious places.

LHDA Poli­hali Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Ger­ard Mokone.

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