‘Ministry not just about water’
When the current seven-party government came to power after the 28 February 2015 snap elections, it decided to establish three more ministries, among them that of Water headed by Honourable Ralechate Mokose. The move to establish this critical ministry was welcomed by the populace as a great accomplishment and step in the right direction since easy access to clean water remains one of the greatest challenges facing many developing nations, with Lesotho being no exception. In this wide-ranging interview, Mr Mokose tells Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Rethabile Pitso, why government saw it necessary to create this ministry.
LT: You are head of a new ministry whose title appears self-explanatory. But what exactly is your mandate as the Ministry of Water?
Mokose: The mandate of the Ministry of Water is “THE PROVISION OF WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION SERVICES AND WATER RESOUCES MANAGEMENT FOR SOCIO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE PEOPLE OF LESOTHO (Ho Sebeletsa Hore Basotho Ba Fumantsoe Metsi Le Litsebeletso Tsa Likhoerekhoere Metseng Ea Bona Moo Ba Pheleng Teng, Le Hore Metsi A Naha A Fumantse Basotho Mesebetsi)”. This mandate was developed following the formulation of the Coalition Agreement of April 2015, particularly with reference to Specific Commitment B2 that says “Enhancing the strategic management of natural resources through creating a Ministry of Water”.
We have therefore, agreed to produce a document detailing our objectives for the next five years which would answer the needs of the people. My Ministry has adopted key details of the Coalition Agreement as well as the ‘Speech from the Throne’ (by His Majesty King Letsie III) towards producing a five-year strategic work-plan.
LT: But what are the key objectives of the ministry?
Mokose: This ministry seeks to ensure that Basotho have water in their villages and that jobs are created through opportunities available in the water sector. This will be achieved through the following ministerial objective: “To achieve water security through proper management of water resources, collection, delivery and usage of water, and provision of sewerage services”.
Our utmost focus is to provide safe and clean drinking water devoid of germs normally found in informal sources of water such as rivers, dams and unprotected springs which many rural villagers are still using. We are striving to put-up proper facilities such as pit-latrines in villages where they are mostly needed in order to move away from unsanitary methods of relief usually practiced by people without these establishments, where they were erroneously placed within the vicinity of informal traditional drinking water sources. This was problematic because when it rained, the sewage would be washed into these water sources. We want to improve sanitation and therefore the health of the people of Lesotho.
LT: What are the projections the ministry hopes to undertake with regard to the budget allocation for the 2015/16 fiscal year?
Mokose: We have been allocated a recurrent budget of M93 134 774.00 to be used towards covering ministerial expenses such as manpower, travel and operating costs to support the implementation of capital/development projects. We have also been allocated a capital budget which will be steered towards capital projects such as installing water taps and toilets in remote areas, putting finishing touches on Metolong Dam which is at its completion stages. The capital budget comprises of funds from government and development partners totalling M1 140 253 843.00. Metolong Dam will supply Maseru city, TY, Roma and Morija with water. The funds will largely be used for completing the remaining activities in the Metolong Dam and Water Supply Programme (MDWSP) at M 875,565,110.00, and the maintenance and construction of new urban and rural water supply and sanitation facilities, including the Integrated Water Resources Management.
In rural areas of Lesotho, water supply and sanitation services will be provided to all the 10 districts in 82 villages. The coverage of water supply in villages per district will be in the following manner: Butha-Buthe (7), Leribe (10), Berea (4), Maseru (15), Mafeteng (5), Mohale’s Hoek (8), Quthing (10), Qacha’s Nek (6), Mokhotlong (9), and Thaba-Tseka (8). The total number of people to be served with clean water will be 33 620. In all the ten districts of Lesotho, a total of 9218 pit-latrines will be erected.
There are also a number of projects we have embarked on in urban areas. In Maseru, there is an ongoing project called Maseru Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply Project aimed at rehabilitating old water-pipe systems in the villages of Maseru West, Ha Hoohlo, Florida, Polo Ground, Old Europa, Europa, Happy Villa, Maseru CBD and Masianokeng.
The other one is the Greater Maseru Water Supply Feasibility study that has been completed. We are at a detailed design stage now. The villages that are covered under this project are Mazenod, Ha Luka, Ha ‘Masana, Ha Tsiame, Ha Makhoathi, Ha Lenono, Ha Bosofo, Ha ‘Nelese, Ha Foso, Marabeng, Berea and Maqhaka. “The Five Towns Water Supply” project encompasses provision of water in five districts of Butha-Buthe, Hlotse, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek and Qacha. The Maputsoe Industrial Water Supply Augmentation Project will be implemented whereby water will be extracted from Mohokare River. This is to cater for industrial water needs. A total of 12 776 people are set to benefit from these projects.
The projects that are aimed at providing sanitation services in urban towns slightly differ from those in rural areas whereby pit-latrines are built. In urban areas, we improve sewerage technologies that transport water from houses to managed sewage facilities. We are undertaking the Maseru Waste Water Project that involves transporting reticulated sewage from villages such as Masowe I, II and IV, Thetsane, Khubetsoana, Mabote, Naleli, Makoanyane, NHTC and Filter clinics of Mabote Qoaling and Likotsi.
The Maseru South West Waste Water project will be implemented in the areas of Ha Pena Pena, Masowe I and other parts of Ha Abia. Under Four Towns waste water project, Butha-Buthe, Hlotse, Maputsoe and Teyateyaneng will be covered.
LT: How do you plan to tackle concerns raised by Basotho who feel the country is building dams at their expense yet there are no benefits accrued from projects such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Projects?
Mokose: The concerns raised by Basotho about the Lesotho Highlands Water Project are prompted by the fact that we,as government have probably not done enough to conscientize people about the importance of the project in both Lesotho and South Africa. We therefore, in this coalition government, have to make Basotho aware that from inception, the project was the creation of the two countries’ double coincidence of needs. These needs, on the Lesotho side, are that Lesotho uses her abundant, harnessed water to earn external revenue and to reduce her energy imports while the needs on the RSA side are to meet her industrial water needs and to satisfy the household needs of her citizens. We will make Basotho aware that in the current Phase II of the project, we will ensure that Basotho derive maximum benefits from the implementation of the projects as well as spin offs arising thereof. The coalition government, through this Ministry of Water, will ensure that the project is used as one of the vehicles by which Lesotho’s private sector should be developed in order for it to derive economic growth and that the project should, in the end, leave tangible and sustainable economic benefits to Lesotho. We will make Basotho aware that the project will contribute the annual revenue of M765,309,254.00 from water royalties and M68,600,000.00 from electricity sales, to the overall budget of the country in the current financial year (2015/16).
It is also important to highlight that the LHWP does and will contribute tremendously to the development of the highlands of Lesotho through a network of roads, telecommunications and electricity transmission lines infrastructure brought about by the primary project objective of water transfer and electricity generation. The communities within the affected areas are benefiting from the water supply and sanitation works undertaken through the project. The Katse dam is already producing trout fish harvested from fish farms within the reservoir, which is being consumed within Lesotho and abroad. We will as the two parties (Governments of Lesotho and South Africa) ensure that the procurement policy of the project caters for the needs of women, youth and the disabled. The sectors of the communities will be encouraged to join the water and sanitation space.
LT: Lesotho has signed up for the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Shared Water Courses which calls for joint-management of water between countries sharing transboundary resources. However, many Basotho have not understood this concept and continuously believe that they should be the sole beneficiaries where projects such as LHWP are taking place. What is your reaction to this perception?
Mokose: Indeed, we are bound by the SADC Protocol on Shared Water Courses of 1998 that was revised in 2000 through which, as SADC-members, we strive to build our economies through natural water that runs through most of our countries. We have mutual needs regarding water as SADC states with South Africa, for example, needing the resource to support its industrial activities while we need it for generating power. This combination of needs makes us interdependent on one another and these are some of the lessons we need to disseminate to Basotho who still lack an understanding of this cooperation.
LT: Your ministry incorporates many sectors. So how are you going to achieve coordinated efforts with other ministries towards ensuring a seamless and effective execution of functions?
Mokose: We have established a sub-committee under the Ministry of Water where respective ministers of Trade and Industry, Tourism, Environment and Culture, Home Affairs, Energy and Meteorology, Foreign Affairs and International Relations and Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing discuss issues of concerted efforts to link activities with other ministries. Together as a team, we try to fill in the loopholes that may crop up when dealing with, for instance, the tourism sector and trade and industry as they are important to link up towards ensuring tourists who visit the country through the water sector spend money in the country and not elsewhere. We are working together towards a stable economy.