LHDA speaks on Nthane murder case

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…says it will not terminate multi-million maloti contract with his company

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) says it will not terminate the M235 million road construction tender it awarded to Nthane Brothers Pty (Ltd) due to the murder case involving the company’s owner, Tšeliso Nthane. But the LHDA would conduct its own internal probe to determine what exactly happened.

Mr Nthane, whose businesses spans the construction, property development and other sectors, is out on M5000 bail after he allegedly shot and killed his 51-year-old truck driver, Kopang Mohapi, on 10 January. This after Mr Mohapi had been involved in a road accident at the Moteng Pass, about 171 kilometres from Maseru, while transporting construction machinery to Polihali in Mokhotlong for the Nthane Brothers company which was recently awarded a massive road construction tender for the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

In the aftermath of the incident, there were rampant calls on various media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for a boycott of the Nthane Brothers’ businesses and for the LHDA to terminate its contract with the company. The LHDA said yesterday it would not do that.

Nthane Brothers, along with their partner, Sinohydro SA, were recently awarded a lucrative M235 million tender to build a 16-kilometre road which stretches from Mapholaneng to the Khubelu River where the LHWP’s Phase II dam – Polihali – is going to be constructed next year.  Nthane Brothers Pty Ltd has the majority 60 percent stake in the joint venture with Sinohydro SA.

The LHDA says there is no going back on the tender despite calls for its reversal. The LHDA also says the case against Mr Nthane “should not” affect the timely implementation of the crucial project.

LHDA public relations manager, Masilo Phakoe, said while the authority was saddened by the tragic shooting incident, the alleged offence by an individual “should not necessarily affect the implementation of the contract”.

“The Nthane Brothers/Sinohydro joint venture was awarded the contract as a result of a fair and objective procurement process,” Mr Phakoe said.

“The alleged misdemeanour of an individual within one of the companies in the joint venture, while disappointing, should not necessarily affect the implementation of the contract,” he added. He also extended the LHDA’s condolences to the family and friends of Mr Mohapi. The police have charged Mr Nthane with gunning down his driver.

However, Mr Phakoe said the LHDA did not condone any criminal activities by any of the companies that it worked with.  He said the LHDA had a strict code of conduct which underpinned its activities and those of the consultants and contractors chosen for its projects. Alleged criminal incidents including that of Mr Nthane would be investigated internally and appropriate action taken.

“The LHDA is in the process of gathering all the facts pertaining to the incident to prepare an appropriate course of action,” he said without specifying what type of action would be taken in the event that the allegations against Mr Nthane were proved to be true.

The accident involving Mr Mohapi was one of numerous accidents that have occurred at the ‘Moteng Pass which stretches for at least 10 km. Motorists, particularly drivers of heavy vehicles, have to be extra alert to negotiate the precarious steep twists and turns on the road that link Butha-Buthe with Mokhotlong.

In December 2017, eight people perished on the road after a minibus driver lost control of the vehicle due to break failure.

Mr Phakoe said the Mohapi accident was not the first involving a company that had been contracted by the LHDA at the ‘Moteng Pass.

“A motor vehicle accident was reported during the geotechnical studies in the Polihali Dam area in 2016 and the accident resulted in the death of one person. Travelling in mountainous areas through areas such as the ‘Moteng Pass was risky, requiring due care, responsible driving and strict adherence to road rules.

“The LHDA recognised that the specific risk from the ‘Moteng Pass (to the second phase of the LHWP) would be in relation to the transportation of heavy machinery such as the tunnel boring machines and the heavy equipment required for the construction of the Polihali Dam.

“Therefore, a decision was taken to construct an access road from Ha Seshote to Polihali. Construction of that road is on schedule and it will be completed in time to enable the transportation of the tunnel boring machines and other equipment required for the construction of the Polihali Dam,” Mr Phakoe said.

Mr Phakoe said the LHDA had since developed crisis management procedures which include the identification of significant project risks and the implementation of actions to eliminate or mitigate them.

“Phase II of the LWHP is being developed in hazardous mountainous terrain and the risks are monitored constantly. The mitigation actions are also reviewed and revised to address changing circumstances on an ongoing basis,” Mr Phakoe said.

He however, said despite the efforts of the LHDA, it remained the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to maintain the country’s roads.

The LHWP is a multi-phased project to provide 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 3000 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.

Its exact form will be determined on completion of the further feasibility studies. Phase II is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

 

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