Submission to WCD on Lesotho Dams

Anna Moepi
Friday, November 12, 1999

Presented at the Southern African Hearings for Communities Affected by Large Dams

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Anna Moepi. I come from Lesotho. I am a representative of the community from Matala, who initially came from Molikaliko. We thank you happily for inviting us here to get our side of the story and are hoping you will support us.

Here is our position before the Lesotho Highlands Water project came. We were living in peace and harmony. Our life was a simple undisturbed life. Our mode of transport was ourselves – we were travelling on foot, also using donkeys and horses to go to the clinics and the shops.

We were planting maize, wheat and everything that sustains our lives, including marijuana. We know this substance is illegal, but it enables us to send our children to school. In other words we were planting money, literally. We were watering these plants with water which is found in abundance at our places. And then the project came.

When the project came we were told we were going to be affected, therefore it was time that we decided which places we wanted to go to. They asked us questions trying to find out how we felt and what we wanted. We were told that resettlement was compulsory. Our concern was how we were going to live in new places.

One important thing we were told was that our lives would improves, at least it would not be lower that the lives we lived in our original places. We were promised that we would get the services of doctors and that we would get full compensation for all assets that would be lost due to dam construction.

Our property affected is the following: trees, houses, huge fields, gardens, pastures, medicinal plants, and other natural resources.

Property which has been compensated already is the following: houses, fields and some people received their garden compensation while others have not, The people are not satisfied with the compensation they are getting because it is below what was initially promised. Our lives are seriously affected by compensation which comes once a year because when it arrives, it finds us already suffering. Compensation package is too small to sustain our lives. It comes when we are already in debt, not having money to buy paraffin and candles to light our houses.

Our lives in the new location leave a lot to be desired: our lives are deteriorating day by day. We are not accepted by the host community at Matala. They have, on a number of times expelled us from using the community graveyard in this place. Sometimes we are forced to squeeze our dead in habitable places, which is not a good thing to do.

I was personally involved because my grandmother died and there was no place to rest her body. We were finally helped by one chief adjacent to the village we were staying in. This year again I was hit by death when my own mother died on the 4th April but we couldn't find a place to bury her so we finally took it upon ourselves to bury the body of my mother in the place of residence. I'm sad to tell you, Ladies and Gentlemen, on the 20th October, the project authorities came to tell use we have to exhume the body of my mother. This is the saddest thing I've come across. They were all ready to exhume but my family refused. I'm not sure what is happening back home – I might find my mother is exhumed. We have to point out that we don't have good relations with the host community. The excuse that LHDA put across was that they were going to exhume because of the bad relationship between the resettlers and the hostees, but that site belonged to LHDA.

One thing I want to know pass on is the compensation – we were promised compensation for all the assets lost. Our lives are in danger and we have not been compensated. When compensation does finally come it is very late and only once a year. Some have received and some have not. Amongst the things that LHDA promised were the stoves to heat our houses but that has
not happened yet. We were also promised to get water, there is one consultant working in the village but that water is not good to us.

LHDA said we have to bear the cost of the water but is our feeling that we don't have money. We are asked to pay but we don't have money.

You see our lives deteriorating day by day – we are worse off. Now our life is sustained by friends and passers by.

Our future is uncertain because we have not been trained on things that would sustain our lives once compensation comes to an end. The project had initially promised that we would be trained on self–reliant projects that would include income generating activities. Nothing is happening.

As the community of Matala we have asked that we be resettled again. So in conclusion, our lives have not got any better.