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Fight brewing over Lesotho Highlands Water Project jobs, compensation

Communities are demanding compensation for their land before construction begins as well as perpetual royalties.

FILE: The Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Picture: EWN

MASERU - The Lesotho Highlands Water Project has responded to more than 20 grievances from communities around the Polihali Dam site, but it appears the fallout is just beginning.

The dam is phase two of the multibillion-rand project that supplies water to Gauteng.

Communities are demanding compensation for their land before construction begins as well as perpetual royalties.

They also want their businesses to be sub-contracted and to be given first preference in hiring people for jobs.

It was estimated that 2,500 people would be affected by the Polihali Dam.

All affected communities are demanding compensation for their land now, but the Lesotho Highlands Water Project said it was only obliged to agree with affected individuals when their properties were required.

Communities say they were not consulted on the compensation payment period of 50 years, but the project maintains households chose from options given to them.

They complain that contractors are employing unskilled labourers from outside when they were promised preference.

The residents want 30% of royalties from the sale of their water forever but the project said only government can decide this.

NGO Seinoli Legal Centre has taken up the grievances and said it would fight for the communities.

Construction on the mammoth project has already started but it is clear the water project and communities were worlds apart when it came to their expectations.

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