Lesotho court case could put Gauteng's water supply at risk
A major - and crucial - water project could be stalled as unimpressed Lesotho businesses head to court
You probably haven’t heard of Mokhele Likate, but the Lesotho businessman is the face of a court case that puts Gauteng’s water supply directly up against Basotho business interests.
Likate is the chairperson of the Consortium of Basotho Contractors, a group that represents some 30 companies in the country, and which believes crucial tenders for the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project cannot be awarded because they are skewed in favour of South African businesses.
Should the consortium win its case, conditions of tenders on the multi-billion-rand Polihali Dam development – which are currently in the process of being awarded – could be sent back to the drawing board. This, in turn, could further delay a project already five years behind schedule.The Lesotho Highlands Project supplies 40% of Gauteng’s water. The Polihali Dam development is a vital element in Phase 2 of the project, and it is tenders for this contract that are at stake.According to the Department of Water and Sanitation, further major delays could put Gauteng’s water security at risk, which would have a knock-on effect on the region’s and the country’s economy.
Phase 2, which is estimated to cost in the region of R24-billion, will increase the amount of water Gauteng gets from Lesotho from the current 780 million cubic metres a year to 1,255 million cubic metres a year – an increase that is vital to meet growing demand.
“The department is concerned about the court case,” Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau told Times Select. “Such an interdict to stop the works could have severe consequences on the completion date of the Polihali Dam and subsequent water deliveries to South Africa.”
Ratau said the current deadline of 2025 for Phase 2 still stood, “barring the outcome of the court case”.
“It is essential that this date remains as it will be able to cater for the continued importance of Gauteng as the economic hub, including supply to Eskom and Sasol. Gauteng continues to attract people for various reasons including work, business, school, health care and other factors. These needs, and the fact that the National Development Plan dictates that there is a possibility of huge growth, impact on why the [Polihali Dam] project is critical,” he said.The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority’s spokesperson, Masilo Phakoe, said that “delayed water delivery and increased costs” could be expected if there were any further delays in Phase 2.
But Likate was convinced the delays would not be massive – at least, he said, not if the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) and the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) wanted to make the case go away.
The court battle is over three contracts for the Polihali Dam:
the Polihali north-east access road;
Advance infrastructure civil works at Polihali Dam and Katse Dam; and
Construction of the Paliholi diversion tunnels.
The Basotho consortium said in papers that the procurement guidelines used by the project authorities “favours South African companies to the exclusion of Lesotho companies”, and also accuses the LHDA and LHWC of overlooking their duty of capacitating local companies and making them participate in the process.FAST FACTS..