Sole ap­point­ment haunts bi-na­tional project

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

WA­TER Min­is­ter Sa­monyane Nt­sekele says the cab­i­net will soon meet to dis­cuss the 2011 con­tro­ver­sial ap­point­ment of con­victed fraud­ster Ma­supha Sole as the coun­try’s tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor to the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Com­mis­sion (LHWC).

Mr Nt­sekele said this in re­sponse to ques­tions about Mr Sole’s suit­abil­ity for the po­si­tion dur­ing Fri­day’s joint me­dia brief­ing in Maseru which the former ad­dressed to­gether with South Africa’s Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Min­is­ter, Gugile Nk­winti.

Mr Nk­winti was in the coun­try for a two day of­fi­cial visit to as­sess progress of the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP) which is aimed at pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate wa­ter to South Africa, Gaut­eng prov­ince and also gen­er­ate hy­dro­elec­tric­ity for Le­sotho.

Mr Nt­sekele said he would raise the is­sue of Mr Sole’s role as Le­sotho tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor to the LHWC with his cab­i­net col­leagues as a “mat­ter of con­cern”.

Mr Sole, a former chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Le­sotho High­lands De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (LHDA), was ap­pointed chief tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor to the LHWC which su­per­vises the LHDA.

He was ap­pointed to the po­si­tion in 2011, just four months af­ter be­ing re­leased from prison on pa­role.

At the time of his re­lease, Mr Sole had only spent nine out of his 15 year jail term which was im­posed af­ter he was found guilty of ac­cept­ing M5 mil­lion in bribes from sev­eral for­eign com­pa­nies that bided for ten­ders in the first phase of the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP) be­tween 1980 and the early 1990s.

Mr Sole’s ap­point­ment an­gered the South African govern­ment at the time.

His ap­point­ment came at a time when South Africa had ap­proved an in­vest­ment of more than R9-bil­lion for the con­struc­tion of the Poli­hali Dam to sup­ply more wa­ter to the Gaut­eng prov­ince.

The LHWP is a multi-phased project to pro- vide wa­ter to the Gaut­eng re­gion of South Africa and to gen­er­ate hy­dro-elec­tric­ity for Le­sotho. It was es­tab­lished by the 1986 Treaty signed by the gov­ern­ments of Le­sotho and South Africa.

The project en­tails har­ness­ing the wa­ters of the Senqu/or­ange River in the Le­sotho high­lands through the con­struc­tion of a series of dams for the mu­tual ben­e­fit of the two coun­tries.

Phase I of the LHWP, con­sist­ing of the Katse and Mo­hale dams, the ‘Muela hy­dropower station and as­so­ci­ated tun­nels was com­pleted in 2003 and in­au­gu­rated in 2004. Phase II of the LHWP is cur­rently in progress. It con­sists of two sep­a­rate but re­lated com­po­nents: wa­ter trans­fer and hy­dropower gen­er­a­tion.

The bi­lat­eral project which is es­ti­mated to cost at least M23 bil­lion, is ex­pected to pro­vide about 3 000 jobs at the peak of its op­er­a­tions.

The wa­ter trans­fer com­po­nent of Phase II com­prises an ap­prox­i­mately 165m high con­crete faced rock fill Dam at Poli­hali down­stream of the con­flu­ence of the Khubelu and Senqu (Or­ange) Rivers and an ap­prox­i­mately 38km long con­crete-lined grav­ity tun­nel con­nect­ing the Poli­hali reser­voir to the Katse reser­voir. other Phase II ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude ad­vance in­fra­struc­ture (roads, ac­com­mo­da­tion, power lines and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion) and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial mit­i­gat­ing mea­sures.

The hy­dropower com­po­nent of Phase II, which is cur­rently un­der fur­ther fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies, may in­clude a pumped stor­age scheme, con­ven­tional hy­dropower such as the ex­pan­sion of the ‘Muela in­fra­struc­ture or new green­field sites. Phase II is ex­pected to be sub­stan­tially com­plete by the end of 2024.

With just a few months be­fore the sched­uled start of con­struc­tion of the Poli­hali Dam next year, the is­sue of Mr Sole’s suit­abil­ity for the LHWC post has once again come to the fore.

And on Fri­day, Mr Nt­sekele said that he would soon bring the is­sue of Mr Sole’s ap­point­ment be­fore cab­i­net.

“I will take up the is­sue of of­fi­cials, es­pe­cially the ad­vi­sor (Mr Sole), with the cab­i­net as a mat­ter of con­cern,” Mr Nt­sekele said.

“When we have chal­lenges with cer­tain is­sues as min­is­ters, they can be re­solved at cab­i­net or lead­er­ship level at the level of our lead­ers. It (the is­sue of Mr Sole) has been raised and I will brief those who are in lead­er­ship es­pe­cially the of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter,” Mr Nt­sekele added.

Al­though he did not say what ac­tion he wanted taken over Mr Sole, the lat­ter’s 2011 ap­point­ment was con­demned by the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion of the time who in­cluded cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane.

Dr Tha­bane de­manded to know why the then govern­ment that was headed by Pakalitha Mo­sisili had re­warded Mr Sole with such a crit­i­cal po­si­tion af­ter he was con­victed of cor­rup­tion and fraud.

In another de­vel­op­ment, Mr Nt­sekele also re­vealed that the govern­ment had pre­pared a draft pro­posal for the re­view of the LHWP treaty to take into ac­count the con­cerns of Ba­sotho who have pre­vi­ously com­plained of be­ing short­changed in terms of roy­al­ties, ten­ders in the project as well as ben­e­fits for the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“There is a draft pro­posal of the re­view of the treaty which will be shared be­tween the two coun­tries,” Mr Nt­sekele said.

on his part, Min­is­ter Nk­winti said the treaty had al­ways been con­tin­u­ally re­viewed and that ev­ery time the treaty gets re­viewed, a pro­to­col was is­sued.

“To date we have six pro­to­cols and all of those speak to the re­view of the treaty and the lat­est re­view of the treaty came in the form of the phase II agree­ment. We have to now re­visit gov­er­nance is­sues re­lated to the treaty but oth­er­wise as it is, the treaty is quite dy­namic and is be­ing re­viewed over the years,” Mr Nk­winti said.

Mean­while, the two min­is­ters re­leased a joint state­ment em­pha­sis­ing the need to take con­crete mea­sures and strate­gies to im­ple­ment the pro­vi­sion of the Phase II Agree­ment which seeks to en­sure that com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in Le­sotho and South Africa equally share the mon­e­tary value of all in­fra­struc­ture works re­lat­ing to the project.

The state­ment comes at a time when lo­cal com­pa­nies have been com­plain­ing that they were be­ing prej­u­diced by the LHDA which is al­legedly award­ing ten­ders to South African com­pa­nies at their ex­pense.

“They (min­is­ters) af­firmed the key tenet that all pro­cure­ment pro­cesses shall foster com­pet­i­tive­ness, trans­parency, cost ef­fec­tive­ness and qual­ity.

“The min­is­ters un­der­scored the need for suc­ces­sion plan­ning and build­ing ca­pac­ity for the sus­tain­able oper­a­tion and main­te­nance of the phys­i­cal struc­tures cre­ated by the project.

“De­lib­er­ate mea­sures shall be taken to en­sure that lo­cal Ba­sotho are ca­pac­i­tated to carry out op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance of the in­fra­struc­ture post con­struc­tion phase. The min­is­ters charged the of­fi­cials to de­velop con­crete pro­grammes for ca­pac­ity build­ing and as­sess­ment of the im­pact of that in­ter­ven­tion,” part of the joint state­ment reads.

WA­TER Min­is­ter Sa­monyane Nt­sekele

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