Tlokoeng District, Lesotho – South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa and Lesotho’s King Letsie III, on Tuesday, participated in the sod-turning ceremony for Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).
The LHWP comprises a system of several large dams and tunnels throughout Lesotho that deliver water to the Vaal River System in South Africa.
Speaking at the sod-turning President Ramaphosa said: “Today is a great occasion indeed. Two neighbours, the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa, are making history.
“We are breaking ground on Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, comprising the Polihali Dam and transfer tunnel.
“There will also be the Senqu Bridge that will stand above the Senqu River.
“As we all know, this project was delayed for a few years, but it is pleasing that the challenges have been overcome and we can do the sod-turning today.”
President Ramaphosa acknowledged that “Metsi a lihlaba, Gauta e tsoeu ea lithaba tsa Lesotho” (Highlands water is the white gold of Lesotho).
He added: “As Basotho and South Africans, we share deep connections of language, culture and custom.
“Our respective peoples are also forever joined together because we rely on the life-giving water that flows in Lesotho.”
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is the biggest infrastructure investment outside South African borders in which South Africa has participated.
This project is a good example of public-private collaboration to build key public infrastructure.
Most of the approximately R40 billion in capital required for Phase Two will be raised in South Africas financial markets by the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority.
The private sector is playing a similar role in many of our other major water resource infrastructure projects in South Africa.
The water South Africa receives from Lesotho augments the Integrated Vaal River System, which supplies water to Gauteng and its surrounding areas.
Once Phase II is completed, more than 400 million cubic metres of water will flow every year from the upper reaches of the Senqu River in Lesotho through the existing conveyance infrastructure to the Vaal Dam in South Africa.
“We are determined that this massive trans-border project should equally benefit the peoples of Lesotho and South Africa,” said President Ramaphosa.
“In addition to the royalties Lesotho receives from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, local jobs have been created and new roads have been built in the Kingdom.”
Both Phase I and II include the construction of hydropower facilities to provide electricity for Lesotho.
“It has been critical for us as both Lesotho and South Africa that all communities affected by the construction of the Polihali Dam were consulted, that there should be fair compensation and relocation to alternative housing nearby,” said President Ramaphosa.
“As African countries all our water resources are interconnected.
“South Africa shares 60 per cent of its freshwater resources with its neighbours.
“We are therefore committed to multilateral trans-border collaboration to ensure that shared water resources are used for the benefit of all.
“As South Africa, we are also working with Namibia on the joint planning of additional dam infrastructure on the Lower Orange River.”
The South African President said the joint planning of an additional dam was to ensure that the Lesotho Highlands Water Project does not negatively impact the Lower Orange River system.
President Ramphosa said the Lesotho Highlands Water Project is more than just a water project.
“It is a beacon of hope, a symbol of progress, a symbol of international cooperation, and a testament to the strength of bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa,” said President Ramaphosa.
“Thank you to all who have gotten us to this milestone, particularly the Minister of Natural Resources of Lesotho, the Honourable Mohlomi Moleko, and South Africas Minister of Water and Sanitation Mr Senzo Mchunu.
“Our appreciation is also extended to the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission and the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority for their efforts.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Lesotho for their unwavering commitment to this project.
“Together, we have achieved a lot, and I have no doubt that we will continue to work together to ensure that this project is completed successfully.”
Dignitaries that attended the sod-turning ceremony included Lesotho Prime Minister Samuel Matekane, Lesotho Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko, SA Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu, SA Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, and SA Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
The Principal Chief of Tlokoeng, members of the community of Tlokoeng and of Mokhotlong District, and Dumelang Basotho ba batle, were also present.