By Thandiwe Kubere
MASERU – The government of Lesotho and the Orange-Senqu River Commission had this week signed an agreement for hosting the project management office under the secretariat of the ORASECOM, courtesy of the Lesotho-Botswana water transfer project.
This came forth as four countries- Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia sought ways of establishing an office that would ensure the harnessing of water supply in the four African countries. The Executive Secretary of ORASECOM Lenka Thamae, expressed his gratitude saying, “what we are witnessing today, which is the acceptance of Lesotho to host the management office, is really the extension of the work of ORASECOM, which is to bring together the four countries in working together for the development of water resources and ensuring that the benefits are available to the populations of the four countries. This particular occasion is about establishing an office that will coordinate and make sure that this happens around the harnessing of water of the Makhaleng River, supplying populations in Lesotho, especially around Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek districts. This is also to construct a compliance system that will make sure some of the water is drown to Southern Africa and delivered to Botswana.”
The journey of proposition on water in Southern Africa began in Lesotho, when SADC established a dedicated sector on water. Thamae emphasized one of the main outcomes as the signing of the protocol of shared watercourses, which is a framework of the agreement between Southern African countries to work together on rivers which cross boundaries. There are more than fifteen river basins in Southern Africa which are shared amongst countries in the region.
Thamae further deliberated that entities of the nature of ORASECOM is a further implementation of that agreement. He therefore, declared that this protocol has been instrumental and fundamental with getting the countries to work together.
For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Hon. Lejone Mpotjoana, after the signing said water is the source of life and plays a crucial role in uniting the African countries to work together in sharing resources.
“It is the Ministry’s hope that this PMO is not only for establishment of the Framework for the study on provision of water to Botswana from the Lesotho`s highlands. It should constitute a step in the development of sustainable renewable water projects for the benefit of Basotho and those on the Senqu River Basin.”
He declared while the formal ties of November 2000 between the Governments of Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia integrated the principles of water resource management of the Orange – Senqu River Basin under the umbrella of ORASECOM, these ties are also an affirmation of the SADC`s revised protocol on shared watercourses.
Hon. Mpotjoane said that even though the Secretariat`s seat is in Centurion- South Africa, and has already been granted the immunities and privileges under the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act No. 37 of 2001 of South Africa, the government of Lesotho is pleased to extend similar immunities and privileges to host the PMO under the Secretariat of the ORASECOM.
“This signed agreement does not only provide the PMO with the legal personality to enter into International agreements, but provides for juridical capacity to acquire, institute legal proceedings, dispose of immovable and movable property in accordance with the Laws of Lesotho or under such arrangements as may be agreed upon”, he said.
In his remarks, Hon. Mpotjoane noted that the privileges and immunities are accorded to the PMO and as such are not for personal benefit of individuals or representatives in the Office. However, these privileges will safeguard the independence of the exercise of the representative’s functions in connection with the PMO`s projects.
“I would like to emphasize that all stakeholders should work concretely to ensure that the PMO`s mandate is geared towards the job creation, fight against poverty and gives more prominence to sustainable renewable projects for the four state parties under the ORASECOM agreement. I further wish to renew the government of Lesotho`s commitment, through the Ministry of Natural Resources and guarantee any assistance the office may require to implement and further ORASECOM`s mandate”, he said.
Hon. Mpotjoane urged that it is high time water is considered for the value it has and the vast opportunities it comes with, for it is a resource the nation has in high endowment and there is a need to utilize it to the its best advantage. “Our water has to be considered for employment, fishery, even for exportation. From it we should be able to create so much power such that there is green energy for economic growth. The youth of this country have to further their studies and become water experts because that is the resource we have in abundance”, he concluded.