Khabang Lejone community, in Lesotho takes the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority to court for delayed payment of compensation.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), was initiated by a treaty between South Africa and Lesotho in 1983. The main aim of the project is to transfer up to 70 M3 /s of water from the Senqu River in Lesotho to the Vaal River in South Africa. The project comprises of two phases, 1(a&b) and 2. The first phase, 1a, saw the construction of Katse dam; a 185 meters walled entity occupying 3580 hectares (Ha). The dam was completed in 1998, and Phase 1b, the construction of Mohale dam, in 2001.

The Lesotho Highlands Development Agency (LHDA), was formed under the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Treaty to manage the project and ensure that resettlement of local communities displaced by the dam projects was implemented lawfully.  While some communities were compensated for assets lost, compensation for livelihoods has been unsatisfactory. A significant number of communities members are still to receive compensation from the LHDA. Khabang Lejone community, in northern Lesotho is one of the affected communities who were displaced by the dam projects. This community has for years, struggled to get compensation owed to them by the LHDA.  Following this protracted battle to reach an agreement, the matter was heard in the High Court of Lesotho on Wednesday the 27th of May 2015.

Outcome of the Court Case

New to Lesotho, the court admitted International Rivers, represented by The Legal Resources Centre, as amicus curiae in the case. Both the LHDA and the legal team representing the Ha Lejone community accepted the involvement of International Rivers in the case and agreed that the community is entitled to compensation. However, the LHDA is withholding the funds based on the fact that they want mechanisms put in place for the community to account for the funds they will receive. The High Court granted a 30 day postponement of the case to give the lawyers representing the community more time to revisit the case and the amicus to prepare their submissions. The court also advised both parties to meet on the 23rd and 24th of June 2015 to try and settle the matter out of court. This meeting will also be attended by members of the Ha Lejone community, supported by the Seinoli Legal Centre.  If no consensus is reached during those discussions, the case will return to court on the 21st of July, 2015. Several members of the Ha Lejone community attended the court case with many of them expressing frustration at how long it has taken them to receive their compensation. Those that were interviewed pointed out that they intended to use the money that is owed to them by the LHDA to recover lost livelihoods by starting income generating projects that will uplift the livelihoods of the community but their efforts are being frustrated by the behaviour of the LHDA. This is simply prolonging the time that they loss of productivity and welfare.


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