Sehlabathebe: A forgotten treasure
SEHLABATHEBE in the district of Qacha’s Nek is a national treasure — or it should be — owing to the internationally-renowned Sehlabathebe National Park which is one of the few nature reserves where local and foreign tourists can view different species of animals.
Sadly, the area which is the home of long-serving former premier, Pakalitha Mosisili, long degenerated into a backwater where grinding poverty is compounded by the acute lack of basic services including bad roads, lack of electricity, inadequate health and education services.
The Sunday Express recently visited the area and the common thread in all the conversations was the seemingly unending plight the locals have to endure because of poor service delivery.
It does not matter that the area is home to the long-serving former prime minister who remains the legislator for Tsoelike Constituency despite his party’s loss in the 3 June 2017 general elections.
Dr Mosisili has been a legislator since the 1990s but this has not ensured smooth tarred roads in place of the parched gravel roads that can be impassable in the rainy season.
This has not resulted in greater access to piped water and electricity for many people.
Instead, the faces one meets are faces of woe and despair, weighed down by the unrelenting poverty. There is talk that crime is escalating due to high levels of unemployment.
The bumpy roads have made travel to Qacha’s Nek town a nightmare. One has to wake up as early as 4am to prepare for the road trip which is at least four hours long because of the poor state of the roads.
The return trip is equally a nightmare and one would curse their ancestors should they miss a vehicle while hiking because most transport operators shun the area on account of the state of the roads.
There is never a chance to relax and savour the trip and those who are indisposed due to stomach ailments are advised against travelling unless it is absolutely necessary.
They risk embarrassing themselves as the bumpy ride could actually prematurely induce the call of nature which would not be ideal when in the company of others on the journey.
Visitors to the National Park also have to think long and hard before undertaking the trip because of the poor road. In view of this, it is highly likely that the country is losing out on foreign currency due to the failure to address the road situation.
One of the community members, Malikopo Mohapi, bemoaned the lack of transport and the general state of the area.
“This is our everyday situation and although we try, one can never get used to this,” Ms Mohapi said, adding, “It’s not easy and very unbearable as we find ourselves trapped in this area all our lives”.
Ms Mohapi said they only had one clinic which was often congested due to the shortage of health personnel.
“The lack of public transport and bad roads also plays a part in the failure to access the health services.”
She also said that water was scarce and there were days when there was nothing coming through the taps due to the low capacity of the water tanks.
“When that happens we have no choice but to resort to spring water or fetch water from the river for washing”.
Another villager, Malebamang Lebofa, said the lack of electricity created a darkness which promoted criminal activities, adding they lived in fear of theft of their property.
She also said that stock theft was common in the area.
The community called on the government to remember them in their strategic plans for development because they were fed up of their status as the forgotten ones despite being citizens and voters.
“It’s also very surprising for this area to be forgotten like this when it has the most popular tourist attraction,” Ms Lebofa said.
Another villager, Nongululane Hulane said poverty had pushed many people into neighbouring South Africa to look for jobs.
“There are no jobs here such as the work for food or cash which we used to have.
“It’s not good for us to always been seen crossing to a foreign country to seek for jobs because our own country fails to create employment for us. Some people even die there,” Ms Hulane said.