Wiseman Khuzwayo

President Jacob Zuma is on a working visit to Lesotho today to attend the start of phase two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), part of the government’s infrastructure development programme.

The Presidency said yesterday that Zuma’s attendance of the sod-turning ceremony not only underlined the government’s commitment to infrastructure development between South Africa and Lesotho, but also took place in the context of promoting the African agenda.

Zuma is being accompanied by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Phase two of the project will cost R15.5 billion, and involves the construction of the Polihali Dam and the Kopong pumped storage 1 200-megawatt hydro-electricity project for Lesotho.

The LHWP says this phase, like the successful first phase, holds numerous benefits. South Africa will bolster water security for densely populated Gauteng, while Lesotho will enjoy royalty payments from South Africa, and 3 500 to 4 000 jobs will be created during the construction phase.

According to the LHWP treaty between South Africa and Lesotho, South Africa is responsible for costs relating to water transfer andLesotho is responsible for the implementation cost of the pumped storage scheme.

Phase one of the project, funded by the World Bank, was completed in 2004. It consisted of the Katse and Mohale dams, and 124km of tunnels and associated infrastructure.

The Department of Water Affairs said this week that by 2010 more than 8.36 billion cubic metres of water had been transferred to South Africa, and Lesotho had received R3.091bn in royalties and R6.38bn from the sale of electricity generated at the Muela hydroelectric power station.

Phase one of the project was blemished by individual and corporate corruption. Four multinational construction companies were fined for giving bribes to officials. The governments of South Africa and Lesotho said they had made concerted efforts to lower the risk of corruption in phase two.