- Following allegations of corruption, a local NGO has appealed for an audit of the tenders allocated in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), the world's largest water transfer operation.
"Bribery for tenders goes along with compromising of workmanship standards. We can only pray that, despite this, standards for constructing these kind of dams was not compromised, as it would be a double punishment to the people living around the Katse and Mohale dams," said Mabusetsa Lenka of the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), an NGO fighting for the rights of communities displaced by the multi-dam project.
Lenka urged the government to audit the LHWP tenders before construction of Phase 2 began.
Mohale and Katse dams, the first phase of the LHWP, were built on the Senqunyane river in the Thabaputsoa mountain range in southern Lesotho at a cost of US $4 billion, to supply water to neighbouring South Africa's rapidly expanding industrial hub in Gauteng province.
The appeal came a few weeks after reports of a second bribery case in connection with construction of the two dams. Lesotho's former representative to the Highlands Water Commission (LHWC), Reatile Mochebelele, and his deputy, Letlafuoa Molapo, have been accused of accepting a bribe to the value of about $163,965 from Germany's largest engineering consultancy, Lahmeyer International.
Several companies involved in the project have been investigated after allegations of corruption and bribery. Lahmeyer, the second firm to be convicted, was fined more than a $1 million in 2003 for paying a bribe to an official. Acres International, a Canadian construction firm, was convicted of bribery in 2002.
Acres maintained it was not aware that money paid to its local representative, the now-deceased Zalisiwonga Bam, was being passed on to the former head of LHWP, Masupha Sole, who is serving a 15-year prison term.
A recent crack in the wall of the Mohale dam has sparked safety concerns, bringing corruption allegations back into the spotlight, said the TRC. "It is very scary when more people are being charged of bribery in different cases and, at the same time, the dam walls are cracking. It makes one wonder if the dams are safe at all," Lenka commented.
Borotho Matsoso, head of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences, told a recent press conference, "It is obvious that Masupha Sole was not the only one." Earlier in the year he remarked, "We suspected there were others whom we had not yet touched. As we went along with this case we found payments that have been made, and at that stage we were not sure who had got the money."
The TRC pointed out that while allegations of corruption have plagued the project, compensation had yet to be paid to some residents displaced by construction of the dams.
More than 30,000 people, mostly subsistence farmers, affected by the building work had to opt for either an annual compensation of between $49 and $290 for 50 years or a lump sum payment of up to $13,000, explained Lenka. "Those farmers who wanted the lump sum compensation had to submit business plans. Some of them did - as far back as four years ago - and nothing has happened."
The project has four phases and is expected to be completed in 2015, provided funds are made available in time.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.