THE much-delayed demolition of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital to pave the way for the construction of a new M800 million hospital finally began on Friday.
The Ministry of Public Works’ principal secretary, Mothabathe Hlalele, said work started after the nine companies contracted to do the job agreed to a proposal to lower their tender prices by almost 50 percent. Mr Hlalele did not reveal the names of the nine companies contracted to do the work.
This is despite that the demolition work is way behind schedule as it had been envisaged that the job would be completed by the end of January 2020 as per the demands of the Chinese government which is funding the construction of the proposed Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic to replace Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.
The much bigger Maseru Hospital is expected to benefit at least 400 000 people in Maseru and other districts.
Construction was initially supposed to have begun in 2018 but that did not happen due to the government’s delay in demolishing Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.
The delays were largely due to the disagreements between the Ministry of Health and that of Public Works over the costs of demolishing Queen Elizabeth II Hospital which had been pegged at M29 million by the Public Works ministry after inviting tender bids from different companies.
The ministries eventually agreed to rope in the army to demolish Queen Elizabeth II Hospital at a much cheaper cost but according to Mr Hlalele, the plan was dropped due to what he said was a “logistical nightmare”.
He said the demolition work finally began on Friday after his ministry successfully persuaded the nine companies to slash their prices by half.
“The hospital is being demolished by nine construction companies owned by indigenous Basotho,” Mr Hlalele told the Lesotho Times this week.
“They (companies) were engaged by the Ministry of Public Works. The tender is now M16 million after they all agreed to have their prices slashed by half.
“We advised ourselves to take this route (of engaging the companies instead of the army) because there were too many logistical nightmares. This is a much quicker process and the construction companies are much faster. Work began on Friday and there has been huge progress.”
Mr Hlalele said they aimed to complete the demolition before the end of the nationwide lockdown on 21 April 2020.
“Demolitions can be hazardous to the people, especially in a town like ours (Maseru) when people will be going on with their business just next to the building being demolished. In this case, the demolition will not be hazardous to the public because of the lockdown.”
The lockdown began on 29 March 2020. It was announced on 25 March 2020 by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane as part of efforts to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.