LHDA Finally "Agrees" To Resettle Lakabane Family

Thabo Thakalekoala (Mopheme)
Monday, December 9, 2002

The family faced the danger of being swallowed up by the giant Mohale dam of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

At long last there seems to be some hope for the Lakabane family which was left in the middle of the Mohale dam of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) after the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) refused to resettle them elsewhere to make way for the construction of the gigantic reservoir.

According to Mothusi Seqhee, a Community Worker for the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), a non–governmental organization that monitors the social and environmental aspects of the LHWP, there is some light at the end of tunnel for the seven–member Lakabane family that they may be finally resettled at Ha Tsolo in the Maseru district after some hard and long negotiations between NGOs and the LHDA.

‘Makuleile Lakabane and her family were left at Ha Seotsa, a village situated on the hillside right in the middle of the Mohale dam at the confluence of the Bokong and Jorotane rivers. As per provisions of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Treaty signed between the governments of Lesotho and South Africa in 1986, all villages to be affected by the construction works of the multi–billion water scheme were to be resettled elsewhere and given some compensation for their individual or communal assets taken over by the Project.

But, as the resettlement of the community of Ha Seotsa started in the late 1990s, the sun did not shine so brightly for the poor Lakabane family. They were told by the LHDA that they were not entitled to resettlement because they did not have rights to the land that they occupied at Ha Seotsa. Instead, according to ‘Makuleile, the LHDA indicated that her homestead and the land at Ha Seotsa were Bequeathed to her brother by her grandmother.

Despite documentary evidence from her brother, the family, the District Secretary and the Principal Chief of Thaba–Bosiu that the land rightfully belonged to ‘Makuleile and her family, the LHDA refused to resettle them. As the impoundment of the giant Mohale dam started on November 1, 2002, the Lakabane family faced the imminent danger of being swallowed up by the dam due to rising water levels, and were cut off from the rest of the world as communication proved very difficult.

Seqhee pointed out that after long deliberations with the LHDA on behalf of the Lakabane family, the LHDA gave two options to the Lakabane family –monetary compensation or resettlement.

"We as the TRC advised her to go for resettlement and not monetary compensation. She agreed and chose to be resettled at Ha Tsolo in the Maseru district. However, there are still problems concerning the settling–in allowance given by the LHDA to people affected by the Project. Allegedly, the settling–in allowance supposed to be given to ‘Makuleile and her family was given to one Molefe Lakabane who has since resettled elsewhere. It was given to him because the LHDA alleges that he is the head of the Lakabane family and thus take ‘Makuleile and her immediate family as dependants of Molefe," he added.

At the time of going to print, negotiations were still going on between the LHDA and the TRC on the fate and the future of the poor Lakabane family which everyday wakes up to the fast rising levels of the Mohale dam. Danger of being swallowed up by the dam stares them in the face every moment and second of their lives

Mopheme–The Survivor can only say: We applaud the LHDA for having finally taken into serious account the plight of the Lakabane family. We hope and pray that the issue will be solved in an amicable way that will ensure equal delivery of justice on both sides.