ATC121019: Report Of The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs on its Oversight visit to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phases I and II, on 1-3 October 2012, Dated 18 October 2012.

Water and Sanitation



The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs having undertaken the oversight visit to Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phases I and II, in the Kingdom of Lesotho , on 01 - 03 October 2012, reports as follows:


The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs (the Portfolio Committee) as mandated by the Constitution and the rules of Parliament conducted oversight to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phases I and II, in the Kingdom of Lesotho from the 01 – 03 October 2012.

1.1. Composition of the delegation

The delegation comprised the following;

Members of the Portfolio Committee:

Hon JH de Lange (ANC) Chairperson;

Hon P Bhengu, (ANC) ;

Hon SB Huang, (ANC) ;

Hon J Manganye, (ANC) ;

Hon DR Tsotetsi, (ANC) ;

Hon JJ Skosana, (ANC) ;

Hon GR Morgan, (DA);

Hon M Wenger, (DA); and

Hon CN Zikalala, (IFP).

Support Staff:

The delegation was accompanied by the following Parliamentary officials:

Ms T Madubela (Committee Secretary); Dr S Watts (Committee Researcher); Ms SB Dawood (Content Advisor); and Mr V Xabendlini (Committee Assistant).

1.2. Background

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) was instituted as a bi-national project spanning the borders of South Africa and Lesotho in accordance with a treaty signed in 1986. This almost miraculous engineering feat diverts water from the Senqu River System in Lesotho to South Africa 's economic hub, the water-stressed Gauteng Province . The LHWP is one of the largest and most intricate construction projects in Africa . The total project was originally envisaged to transfer 70 cubic metres of water per second (m 3 /s) from the upper portions of the Lesotho Highlands into the Vaal River basin . The scheme was designed in phases, with each phase providing additional transfer capacity to the previous phase with the ultimate transfer of 70 m 3 /s only being achieved on completion of the final phase of the project. The Project is a multipurpose undertaking that transfers water and generates hydropower.

The water that is routed to South Africa is put to good use by powering an underground hydroelectric power station at the Muela Power Station that generates electricity to meet some of the energy needs of Lesotho . It suffices to state that Lesotho depended entirely on South Africa for its electricity requirements prior to the project. The project has had an important impact on Lesotho 's infrastructure, as hundreds of kilometres of engineered paved roads were built in order to improve access to the different construction sites that together with engineered unpaved 'feeder' roads around the dams, continue to provide much improved communication means for many villages in the mountainous interior. Thus, the Kingdom of Lesotho has benefitted from infrastructural development projects like dams, roads and hydropower; recruitment opportunities; and sustainable royalties of about R450 million per annum during the first phase of the project.

The governments of the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho agreed to establish an institutional governance framework for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project initially known as the Joint Permanent Technical Commission, but which has now evolved into the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC). This is a bi-national supervisory body, which oversees the construction, maintenance and operation of the multi-billion Rand Lesotho Highland Water Project. The policy framework within which it operates emanates from the consensus reached between the two governments. Both countries are represented on the Commission by a delegation led by the Chief Commissioner. The Commission has three delegates [1] from each country to discuss matters pertinent to the Treaty and for monitoring the activities of the two client authorities. Within Lesotho , the intricacies of the project are overseen by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, whereas the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority is the implementing agency in South Africa .

The first phase (Phase I) of the LHWP saw the building of two dams, that is, the Katse and Mohale dams, an intake tower, transfer tunnel, delivery tunnel and a hydropower station at Muela (with a tail-pond dam serving it). The Project entered into the second phase when the two governments of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa signed implementation of Phase II of the LHWP in November 2011. The purpose of the agreement is to improve the use of the water of the Senqu/Orange River system by storing, regulating, diverting and controlling the flow of the shared water to deliver specified quantities of water to South Africa . The Phase II project entails the construction of the Polihali Dam on the Senqu River , a transfer tunnel from Polihali Dam to the Katse Dam and expansions to the existing Muela hydropower complex. Thus, the Kingdom of Lesotho would benefit from further infrastructural development projects, including dams, roads and hydropower, recruitment opportunities and additional sustainable royalties; and environmental and social development programs in Lesotho during the second phase. Phase II water delivery is expected to come online based on the original 1986 treaty between South Africa and Lesotho and the subsequent Phase II Agreement. The agreement on Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was presented to Parliament for approval by the South African delegation on the LHWP in the presence of officials from the Department of Water Affairs where the administration of the Project falls in South Africa , as mandated by section 231 of the South African Constitution. The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) unanimously agreed to the adoption of the Agreement.

It was against this background that the Committee decided to visit and assess the achievements of Phase I of the LHWP and also to scrutinise the plans for the operationalisation of Phase II, considering the significant financial resources that the nation commits to this publicly-funded project. The South African delegation on the LHWP and the Department of Water Affairs welcomed the Committee’s proposal to visit the LHWP, as they envisaged the project to benefit from parliamentary perspectives and oversight, taking into account the fact that this would be the first time for a parliamentary committee to visit the Project.

2. VISIT to the Lesotho Hhighlands Water Project: Phases I & II

The members of the Committee and staff went on an oversight visit of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) from 1 st to 3 rd October 2012. The Committee was received at the Moshoeshoe I International Airport by the South African High Commissioner to the Kingdom of Lesotho , His Excellency, Mr Happy Mahlangu and his staff as well as by the South African Commissioner on LHWP, Dr Zodwa Dlamini and her Lesotho counterpart, Professor Lebohang Moleko and their respective staff. The Committee went to the South African High Commission, where his Excellency, Mr Mahlangu welcomed the Committee, once more, and thanked the legislators for coming to visit the LHWP, considering South Africa’s growing need for Water in the industrial areas of Gauteng. His Excellency Mr Mahlangu explained to the Committee the expectations of the Basotho people and also encouraged the legislators to be sensitive to those expectations in their engagement with the communities around the project sites that the Committee would be visiting during the oversight visit. His Excellency also brought to the attention of the Committee the difficult and complex challenges existing in respect to immigration between South Africa and Lesotho , especially the challenges that Basotho face at the South African border posts.

Hon Adv Johnny de Lange thanked the South African High Commissioner and the South African delegation on the LHWP on behalf of the Committee. The Committee was particularly impressed by the way that His Excellency Mahlangu and his staff received the Committee by actually setting aside a time for personally coming to receive and thoroughly brief the parliamentary delegation at the airport. Hon Adv de Lange stated that that was truly a unique and exemplary welcome, underscoring that “this is the first time that members of the Committee have been welcomed and briefed this way in a foreign country” during his tenure as the Chairperson of the Committee. Hon Adv de Lange then emphasised the significance of Phase II to South Africa and explained the Committee’s position on ensuring, through rigorous oversight, an effective, efficient and free of scandal and corruption project, during the implementation of this second phase. He further stressed the need for South Africa to integrate with the rest of Africa in a systematic, respectful and dignified manner that results in the use of Africa ’s resources to benefit its people. Finally, Hon Adv de Lange led four other MPs to make a courtesy visit to the Speaker of Parliament of the Kingdom of Lesotho .

On the second day of the oversight visit (2 nd October 2012), the Committee, the Lesotho High Commissioner to Pretoria, officials of the Department of Water Affairs and the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) and members of the South African and Lesotho delegations on the LHWP flew in five helicopters to the site where the Polihali Dam would be constructed during Phase II of the Project to augment South Africa’s water security. The Committee saw the construction of the measuring weir which is being used to determine current flow regime to ensure that this flow is maintained after the construction of Polihali Dam. The Committee heard that accommodation facilities would be constructed for Dam workers and affected communities would be compensated for land, whereas affected homes will be relocated. Road construction during the second phase would commence in 2014 and Dam construction would start in 2016, and is due for completion in 2020. The second phase also entails the construction of a tunnel to take water from the Polihali Dam to the Katse Dam. The Committee asked how the R9 billion cost of the Polihali Dam would be raised and was assured that the money would be realised from the market, with the Government providing the surety. The Committee further asked about the likely impact of the second phase of the Project on the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Kingdom of Lesotho where the Department of Water Affairs conceded that GDP projections had not been made, but about 3 500 jobs would be generated for the Basotho.

The Committee was satisfied with the work programme of Phase II of the Project and was accompanied by the rest of the delegation in the chartered helicopters to the Katse Dam that was constructed during the first phase of the LHWP on the Malibamatso River in the Kingdom of Lesotho . The Committee and the accompanying delegation were received at the Katse Environmental Education Centre where they were presented the overall overview of the LHWP. The Committee toured the impressively gigantic Dam and considered the Dam to be an engineering feat of enormous proportions. From there the legislators visited the Katse Botanical Garden , which is a biodiversity spinoff of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. The Garden is the highest (in terms of altitude) in the southern hemisphere and has a medicinal plant component, national flower (e.g., spiral aloe) and high afromontane zone plants.

Furthermore, the Committee visited t he Mohale Dam, which is an impressive rock-filled wall with a thin concrete face, 145 metres tall and a total capacity of 938 million cubic metres. It is a transfer Dam, delivering water to the Katse Dam . The rockfill construction made good use of the basalt materials, which are readily available in the surrounding Lesotho Mountains and is also less prone to time delay risks such as adverse weather conditions. The Committee returned back to Maseru in the afternoon of the second day after having visited all the relevant sites to assess the successes of the LHWP both during the first phase of the project and the second phase that is currently underway.

3. HOSTING of the Committee at the South African High Commission

The South African High Commissioner hosted a gala dinner for the South African legislators, which was attended by the Lesotho High Commissioner to Pretoria, senior officials from the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission from both sides (South Africa & Lesotho); Department of Water Affairs; and members of Parliament of the Kingdom of Lesotho, including the Deputy Speaker and a member of the Portfolio Committee on Water and invited citizens of Lesotho, among others. Dr Zodwa Dlamini welcomed the guests and His Excellency, the South African High Commissioner, Mr Happy Mahlangu noted the significance of the oversight visit of the Committee and underscored the intricate relationship between South Africa and Lesotho , considering the completely landlocked nature of Lesotho within South Africa . He indicated that the implementation of the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project means that South Africa would receive more water from Lesotho , whereas Lesotho would benefit from increased infrastructural development projects and royalties, and highlighted the need for Phases III & IV. He emphasised the significance of economic stability of the Kingdom of Lesotho , particularly for South Africa and the southern African region, in general.

3.1. Pertinent Remarks by the Committee

The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Adv de Lange, speaking on behalf of the Committee at the gala dinner reiterated the Committee’s gratitude for the manner in which the Committee was received by the South African High Commissioner as well as by the South African delegation on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and how the latter facilitated the oversight visits of the Committee to the various project sites. He considered the oversight visit extraordinary and the organisation around it exceptional. He acknowledged the completed projects in the first phase of the Project as engineering feats and appreciated the conceptualisation and vision of the project that affirm South Africa and Lesotho’s oneness.

Furthermore, Hon Adv de Lange made the following recommendations, on behalf of the Committee:

· We (as people of the African Continent) have to reconceptualise our relationships and we have to do things differently by looking at how we use our resources to better the lives of our own people, as South Africa and Lesotho are jointly doing in terms of the LHWP. He noted the impact of the legacy of colonialism on Africa’s resources that continued to be stripped for the economic gains of those former colonisers to the detriment of the welfare of Africa ’s people. Hon Adv de Lange stressed the need for African nations to encourage Africans to come together as advocated by NEPAD and in the spirit of African Renaissance to optimise using of the Continent’s resources to better the living conditions of its people and to reduce the benefits of such resources for exclusive development of previous colonisers. Parliament has an important role to play in this regard.

· Parliamentarians should begin to interact with each other to facilitate their respective governments to work differently with each other on matters of common and/or reciprocal interest. It is in this spirit that the Committee intended sending the South African National Water Resources Strategy that the Committee is currently processing in the South African Parliament to the Portfolio Committee on Water in the Kingdom of Lesotho Parliament for their inputs.

· Parliaments should ensure institutional and operational integrity of bilateral and multilateral projects, although the policies underpinning these projects originate from the concerned national executives. This offers a unique opportunity for Parliaments to cooperate.

· The Committee would continue to ensure that the LHWP remains an exemplary project by exercising annual and continuous proactive oversight of the Project.

· The LHWP, including its governance framework, should be showcased to other African countries, especially nations sharing transboundary water resources, for example, those countries in the Nile Basin and others sharing the Chari, Congo, Kasai, Kunene, Kwango, Okavango and Niger rivers, among others. It is noteworthy that about 85 per cent of Africa ’s water resources are comprised of large river basins that are shared between several countries. High rates of population growth accompanied by continued increases in the demand for water have the potential to hinder development in several countries and hence increase the propensity for inter-state tensions and conflicts.

· The Committee emphasised the need for recruitment of well-qualified, experienced, capable and energetic individuals to ensure success of bi- and multinational projects, while reflecting on the LHWP workforce and hence the success of the Project.


Hon Adv de Lange thanked the High Commissioner of Lesotho for having left her post in Pretoria to be with the Committee during the oversight visit and also thanked the South African High Commissioner to Lesotho , His Excellency Happy Mahlangu for making the Committee’s visit to Lesotho an extraordinary experience. A legislator from the Kingdom of Lesotho Parliament, Hon VM Malebo welcomed the visit of the South African Committee and considered the visit a confirmation that South Africa and Lesotho would always work together to overcome whatever challenges the two countries encounter in their relations. He encouraged the officials from both countries on the LHWP to continue working together to effectively implement the second phase of the Project, citing how they had been able to successfully negotiate the Phase II Agreement. Hon Malebo was highly excited about the invitation made by Hon Adv de Lange for their respective Parliaments and hence Committees to cooperate on matters of common interest and he looked forward to seeing other committees of the two Parliaments exchanging visits and views on matters within their respective portfolios.

Finally, the Committee visited the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho on the 3 rd day of the oversight visit (3 rd October 2012) to express the Committee’s gratitude to the Government of Lesotho for successfully negotiating the Phase II Agreement of the LHWP with South Africa. The Committee indicated its readiness to monitor the effective operationalisation of the second phase of the project to ensure a win-win outcome for both South Africa and Lesotho .

Report to be considered.

[1] Conley, A.H. and van Niekerk, P.H. (2000) Sustainable management of international waters: The Orange River case. Water Policy 2: 131—149.


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