Ombudsman breathes fire

MASERU — The Ombudsman, Sekara Mafisa, has lashed out at the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) for being callous and insensitive after it refused to compensate a Leribe man whose land was affected by the highlands water project.
Mahlomola Ramothello’s residential site was affected by the construction of a road leading to Tséhlanyane Tunnel in the Leribe district in 1990.
The construction damaged his house and took part of his yard and garden.
Ramothello was partially compensated for his property.
Yet his battle for the other part of the compensation has dragged on for the past 19 years during which the LHDA has dithered at every turn.
In April this year the authority ignored the ombudsman’s recommendation to compensate Ramothello with M72 786.
At one time, according to Mafisa’s findings, the LHDA actually issued the M72 786 to Ramothello but an officer in the authority issued a “stop payment instruction” through its bank and effectively cancelled the payment on the basis that he had already been compensated. 
Since then the authority has remained mum on the payment, compelling the ombudsman to seek parliament’s intervention this week.
In his report tabled before parliament on Monday by Justice Minister Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, Mafisa fired a broadside at the LHDA for behaving in an “irresponsible and an in fact, inhuman manner”.
Mafisa wants parliament to endorse his recommendation to force the authority to pay up.
“It is a disgrace that an organisation of the stature and position of LHDA in the general scene of the Kingdom of Lesotho would allow a well-known complaint, regarding compensation for an individual’s property, to remain unresolved (for a whopping 20 years) for absolutely no reason,” Mafisa said.
“It was even more disgraceful and totally unbecoming of an organisation to issue a stop payment instruction after it effected payment of a large amount of money.”
Mafisa also blasted the LHDA for putting up a hopeless defence in a bid to avoid paying the compensation.
“Not only did LHDA fail to assail the case made by Ramothello but it put up a hopeless defence which, as a matter of fact, collapsed midstream.”
He said the authority had only sent one witness who contradicted himself during the hearing.
“The only witness led by LHDA was uninformed, contradicted herself in evidence and finally found herself floundering to the extent that she found herself without any choice but to withdraw some crucial aspects of her testimony,” Mafisa added. 
He said he had seen the LHDA’s “insensitivity and callousness to the other problems of the people whose lives it has touched”.
He said the authority had delayed compensating Ramothello “thereby trampling upon every principle of justice and fairness”.
“The position taken by LHDA in this matter is indeed preposterous, to put it modestly,” he added.
After failing to make headway in getting the LHDA to comply with his recommendations, Mafisa then wrote to the Minister of Natural Resources Monyane Moleleki — who is in charge of the authority — requesting his intervention.
An attachment to the report submitted to parliament shows that he wrote to the minister on August 31 this year.
The minister did not respond to his appeal, a move which compelled Mafisa to approach parliament.
“The Honourable Minister of Natural Resources has not even acknowledged receipt of that letter,” Mafisa complained in his report to parliament.
Parliament, he said, was his “only constitutional teeth in the matter”.
“The rights of a citizen have been callously trampled underfoot by an organisation whose responsibility it is to make sure that, with the existence of Lesotho water project, the lives of the affected people, such as Ramothello, are made better off rather that worse off.”
He said by failing to compensate Ramothello the LHDA had in fact neglected its obligations.

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