Road washed away

THABA-TSEKA — Part of the Likalaneng-Thaba-Tseka Road that was built by a company owned by the Nthane Brothers has been washed away – barely two years after its construction.

The road was constructed by the Lesotho Consolidated Construction Company (LCCC), a firm wholly owned by the Nthane Brothers.

The LCCC is a company that the Nthane Brothers has used for many government construction tenders in Lesotho.

The 27km stretch from Mantsonyane to Thaba-Tseka, was part of the 85km road construction project that was funded by the government of Lesotho and generous long term-loans from three international financial institutions.

In contract documents the stretch is referred to as Lot 3 and was funded by the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA).

Lot 1, which was a 31km stretch from Likalaneng to Ha Cheche’s Pass, was built by Rumdel Construction, a firm that has won numerous government tenders over the years.

LCCC got Lot 2 which was for the 27km stretch from Ha Cheche’s Pass to Mantsonyane and Lot 3 which was also a 27km stretch from Mantsonyane to Thaba-Tseka town.

As reported last week, Lot 2 is yet to be finished due to a dispute over payments.

Lot 2 is the same project for which the company got a controversial M15 million loan advance from the government after pleading poverty.

But despite that curious financial assistance the company has failed to complete the construction which is now 12 months behind schedule.

Further investigations by this paper have revealed that although the LCCC finished Lot 3 without problems serious questions are now being asked about the quality of work on that Mantsonyane to Thaba-Tseka Road.

Parts of that road have been seriously damaged, making it almost impassable and is posing a serious danger to road users.

This is despite the fact that the road was completed just two years ago.

Documents gathered by the Lesotho Times over the past two weeks show that the Mantsonyane to Thaba-Tseka town road was built at a total cost of M139.6 million.

Of that amount M134.8 million went to LCCC while the remaining M4.7 million was used to pay WSP International, the consultant company that supervised the project on behalf of BADEA and the government of Lesotho.

BADEA contributed M77 347 313 while the government of Lesotho chipped in with M62 268 776 from its own resources, according to the documents seen by this paper.

Lesotho will repay the loan to BADEA over the next 26 years.

Despite this huge cost a significant part of the road has been washed away, bringing into question the quality of work that the LCCC did on the road.

Under normal circumstances a tarred road of that quality should last between 10 and 25 years, barring any major natural disasters like earthquakes and landslides.

At Haphaila, about 6km from Thaba-Tseka, the road has been severely damaged and might soon collapse.

Between Haphaila and Hasepokho, about 8km from Thaba-Tseka town some parts of the tar pavement have been completely washed away and now resembles the gravel road that it was before M139.6 million was used to construct it.

The clearance of the road is also very bad in other areas of the 27km stretch that the LCCC constructed.

Some parts are riddled with huge potholes, the size of which can only be found in old roads that have been neglected for years.

Questions are also being asked about the competence of WSP International, the company that was paid M4.7 million to supervise the project and ensure that a proper job was done on the road.

So serious is the damage that the government might have to use millions of maloti to repair the road.

Government officials in the Thaba-Tseka district have already started talking openly about the poor quality of the road.

Residents too are peeved.

The Thaba-Tseka district administrator, Sello Lenkoane, said it is now difficult for motorists to get to Thaba-Tseka unless they use 4×4 vehicles, cars that are designed to travel in rough and rugged terrains.

“The road is badly damaged and in some places where it is not totally washed away it has many potholes,” Lenkoane said.

“It is difficult for small cars to reach here. Visitors to Thaba-Tseka have to use four wheel drive cars,” he said.

Lenkoane said the road started falling apart just six months after it was completed.

“It was expected that the road would stand the test of time, but it had not been used for six months when it was washed away,” he said.

“The engineers might have underestimated the challenges of this place.”

Villagers now fear that should the road continue to deteriorate they would return to the old days when they had to carry their sick on horseback to the hospital.

In the “old days”, before the road was constructed, the people in the villages near Thaba-Tseka used to carry their dead on stretchers to the mortuary at Paray Hospital, the biggest health centre in the district.

“We were terrified when the road was washed away by heavy rains as that would mean we would return to our old lives,” said Masheane Moeketse, 31, a father of two.

Like other villagers Moeketse has watched the Mantsonyane to Thaba-Tseka Road transform from rugged gravel to a tarred road and then back to a rugged gravel road again in just four years.

During that time he has nursed hopes that after the completion of that road the government would start building feeder roads into the villages.

He understands that because of the damage to the main road, roads into small and remote villages along the way will not be a priority.

Motlatsi Seleso from Hillside, a township in Thaba-Tseka, said he was disappointed with the construction of the road.

“It took the company a long time to construct this road but look how bad it is,” Seleso said.

“It has been washed away. The culverts have caved in. I wonder if they knew what they were doing.”

Sello Morake is a freelance journalist based in Maseru. He spent last week in Thaba-Tseka as part of a media training programme organised by Misa Lesotho.

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