Address by President Thabo Mbeki at
the Opening of Phase 1B of the Lesotho Highlands Water
Project, Mohale Dam, Kingdomof Lesotho, 16 March 2004
Your Majesty, King Letsie III,
Your Excellency, Prime Minister, Phakalitha Mosisili,
Honourable Members of the Lesotho Parliament and all
branches of government,
Your Excellencies, Ministers, High Commissioners and
Ladies and gentlemen:
We are very honoured to have the opportunity to participate
in the opening of Phase 1B of the Lesotho Highlands
Water Project and would like to thank His Majesty, the
Prime Minister and government of the Kingdom of Lesotho
for the invitation to be here today.
In 1840, His Majesty, King Moshoeshoe I, journeyed
on his horse, Bles, with the missionary, Thomas Arbousset,
to the Blue Mountains from Thaba Bosiu to find the source
of the Senqu or Orange River.
This expedition into the mountains that now replenish
the Katse Dam - the first of our highly successful joint
ventures in sharing water resources - must have then
been a long distance indeed from Thaba Bosiu, as the
Mohale Dam is today to many South Africans to whom its
"white gold" is destined.
Although our countries are not far from each other,
the wise words of the Book of Proverbs also apply to
us: "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good
news from a far country". (Book of Proverbs 25:25)
King Moshoeshoe, would not have envisaged an architectural
and award-winning, state-of-the art engineering feat
such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, but he
surely knew in his heart that his expedition would inspire
others after him to harness the "pure white gold"
which would journey to near and far places to satisfy
In 1994, our two countries reviewed the Treaty on the
Lesotho Highlands Water Project. In doing so, we once
more affirmed that the economic destinies of our people
and countries are inextricably linked together. In this
regard, we agreed that the Lesotho Highlands Water Project
had great potential to bring long-term benefits that
could be shared by both countries.
Indeed, from both sides of the border we have already
seen the benefits from this project in terms of job
opportunities and the gift of 'cold water to a thirsty
soul' of industries and homes in South Africa.
This project sparkles like a jewel in the crown of
the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and
the African Union, proving that we can, as Africans,
accomplish sustainable development, to the mutual benefit
of neighbouring countries and as an example of projects
that are needed all over our continent to achieve our
Your Majesty, this project is the product of the sweat
and labour of hardworking men and women of our two countries
and others from other countries, who have ensured that
this special creation enables us to give and sustain
life. As we celebrate the labour of love represented
by this dam, we also recall the sacrifices of these
many workers. We salute all of them.
Some among them lost their lives in dangerous work
high up these mountains. We extend our condolences to
each family that has lost loved ones.
We also salute the professionals, the consultants and
contractors who have toiled long and hard to turn plans
into a spectacular reality. I would also like to extend
our thanks to the many officials who have served in
the various project bodies.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is a bi-national
project to harness a natural resource, Lesotho's "white
gold", for the benefit of both our countries. For
South Africa, the project brings improved security of
water supply for both economic and domestic use, and
will undoubtedly help to meet the increasing water demand
for many years to come.
Equally, Lesotho enjoys the benefit of new infrastructure
including roads, expanded communication and electricity
systems, health facilities, job opportunities, improved
water supply and sanitation to numerous communities
and many additional secondary benefits associated with
a huge capital investment with its revenue streams.
In sharing our natural trans-boundary resources, we
have developed this project on a basis of mutual respect
for the rights and interests of each country and its
citizens. In his World Water Day message in 2002, United
Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Kofi Annan observed
that "fierce national competition over water resources
had prompted fears that water issues contain the seeds
of violent conflict".
The peoples of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic
of South Africa should draw pride from the fact that
we have demonstrated that we need collaboration rather
than competition over resources, thus to avoid the violent
conflict to which Kofi Annan referred.
This project proves that resources can be shared and
developed carefully and peacefully, taking the rights
of other sharing states - in this case downstream Namibia
- into consideration.
This project is a concrete example of the kind of co-operation
envisaged in the African Union's programme, the New
Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Accordingly,
it constitutes an important contribution towards the
realisation of the African Water Vision 2025, and the
UN Millennium Development Goals.
It demonstrates that as signatories of the UN and SADC
protocols on the use of shared watercourses, our countries
are determined to ensure the equitable sharing of natural
resources with all those who have a right to them.
Construction work on Phase 1B commenced in the same
year when the first democratic government was elected
in South Africa. A review undertaken in that year indicated
that the project authorities had been concentrating
mainly on the engineering components of the project,
and as a consequence, consideration of the social and
environmental components had fallen behind.
As South Africa celebrates her ten years of democracy,
an achievement that belongs equally to the people of
Lesotho, we are also happy to celebrate the opening
of this reservoir of life itself.
We are all very pleased that, through this project,
we have jointly encouraged and promoted a people-centred,
holistic approach in all activities of the implementing
and oversight bodies. Indeed, the policy for compensation
and resettlement of people meets the criteria set in
the guidelines promoted by the World Commission on Dams
and the principle that "affected people should
be better off with the project than they were before".
We trust that implementation in this regard will be
As African governments, we have agreed that good governance
is an essential requirement for sustainable development.
Accordingly, one of the objectives of NEPAD is to promote
programmes aimed at enhancing the quality of public
sector economic and financial management, as well as
We therefore thank the government of Lesotho for the
sterling work which has been done over the past seven
years, to confront the malpractices that were uncovered
in this project, resulting in successful prosecution
of the culprits.
What came out during the judicial processes was that
agents of some companies from developed countries were
the prime movers in spreading the cancer of corruption,
by enticing officials with huge amounts of money to
afford them special favours.
These unfortunate developments have fostered a closer
relationship between the prosecuting and law enforcement
agencies of Lesotho, the European Union and South Africa.
This co-operation also extends to international development
agencies such as the World Bank and the European Investment
The manner in which the Lesotho authorities have handled
this project has ensured increased investor confidence
in present and future major development programmes that
are undertaken in this part of the world.
We hope that all countries and multi-lateral institutions
such as the World Bank will use the experience accumulated
during the long judicial process that took place in
this country, to enforce compliance with their own procedures
to prevent corruption and bring to book those that engage
in corrupt practices.
Between us, we are also agreed that the application
of sound financing principles in the development of
sustainable projects is a key to success. In this regard,
we believe that there are many lessons to be learnt
from the principles that have informed the implementation
of Phase 1 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
In this regard, it is important to note that foreign
funding for the Project has only been used to finance
the import of goods and services from outside the region.
We have managed to raise more than 85% of funding between
ourselves. We are also happy that the project authorities
have gained valuable experience in debt and risk management,
which can be used in future in other programmes.
Your Majesty, having assessed the benefits of the project
thus far, the logical question to ask is - what of the
future? Obviously, further developments will also require
the investment of large sums of capital. But this would
undoubtedly provide a stimulus for the economic growth
in our countries.
For South Africa, a further phase would have to address,
in the most appropriate way, the needs of the growing
water demand in the Vaal River System and of course
the full cost of the construction would need to be recovered
from water users.
In this regard, we would need to define the most cost-effective
ways of meeting the ever-increasing need for this valuable
resource and ensure the correct timing for further augmentation
of water supplies, while at the same time, encouraging
all our citizens to appreciate water as a scarce commodity
that should be used sparingly.
Accordingly, there is no doubt that together we have
to take into consideration a number of factors before
proceeding with new phases.
Acting within the context of our co-operation, our
Ministers recently agreed to commence with feasibility
studies to explore the possibilities for further phases
of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. These studies
need to address all factors in order to compare the
various options to augment the Vaal River System and
meet Lesotho's own requirements. We await the results
of these consultations.
Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen:
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is not the only
field of co-operation between our countries. Since April
2001, when we signed the agreement to establish the
Joint Bi-lateral Commission on Co-operation, there has
been steady progress with several other joint projects,
including geo-chemical mapping and the improvement of
The Maluti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Project
is an innovative joint venture that promises to bring
significant benefits to Lesotho and South Africa. While
our two countries have agreed to co-operate for the
purpose of conserving the bio-diversity in the mountains
that provide the run-off to our storage dams, it also
creates opportunities for promoting the sustainable
development of the area.
The project will involve local communities in the establishment
of community conservation centres, village nurseries,
the demarcation of hiking trials and other eco-tourism
ventures. Indeed, we should work together to ensure
that the Katse and Mohale Dams become internationally
renowned tourist attractions, such as the Kariba Dam,
Egypt's Aswan High Dam, the Hoover Dam in Nevada and
the Water Control Dam at Niagara Falls.
Our beautiful continent has so much to offer to tourists,
yet it only attracts 3,6% of the world's tourists. Africa,
and we in South Africa and Lesotho particularly, can
do better by effectively using our abundant natural
and cultural resources, combined with good quality infrastructure
and tourist facilities, to expand the tourism sector.
Let us jointly take on this challenge so that visitors
may marvel at over 10 000 indigenous plants at the Katse
Botanical Garden, stop at Bakong to view the endangered
bearded vulture, and pass through Ts'ehlanyane to meander
around the rare woodlands and berg bamboo to catch a
glimpse of the butterfly species, metisella syrinx!
The Lesotho Government has also identified the need
to address the supply of potable water to your citizens
living in Maseru and the Lowlands area. There are also
communities on our side of the common border who depend
on the flows on the Caledon River for their water supply.
Our respective Ministers responsible for water matters
are working together to find ways to alleviate the recurrent
water shortages that afflict our peoples. I am pleased
that this process is at an advanced stage.
Your Majesty, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project has
further strengthened our ancestral bonds of brotherhood
and sisterhood and ensured that our two nations remain
ever closer together.
Let us continue to join hands as good neighbours and
as Africans who face common challenges. I am confident
that together we can and will shape a better future
for both our peoples.
Pula! Nala! Khotso!
Issued by: The Presidency
16 March 2004