MASERU — South Africa last week handed over a cheque for M40 million to the government of Lesotho to fund the upgrading of the 47.4 kilometre Sani Top to Mokhotlong road project.
The project seeks to improve the development of eco-tourism in the Maloti Drakensberg trans-frontier conservation and development area that lies on the Lesotho and South African border.
The funds were sourced by the South African government from the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund at the request of Lesotho’s Ministry of Tourism.
Speaking at the cheque’s handover ceremony in Maseru last Friday, Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Lebohang Ntsinyi said the upgrading of the road will boost tourism and improve the socio-economic life of the nearby communities.
“When this road is completed it will make it easier to access the sites for tourists and also it will help the communities within that area,” Ntsinyi said.
“The nearest city where people in Mokhotlong can do their shopping is Pietermaritzburg (in South Africa) and they have to go through Caledonspoort.
“Life is already expensive (but the new road) will make it easier for the people (to access these services),” Ntsinyi said.
She said the upgrading of the road will help develop communities living along the remote area and increase the number of tourists in the Drakensberg area.
“We are ready to start the process of procurement of the professional services for the engineering, design and conducting a complete environment impact assessment right away.
“This will be followed by construction activities once the detailed design is completed,” Ntsinyi said.
The Sani Top-Mokhotlong road improvement project is expected to cost M340 million.
Ntsinyi said Lesotho will source additional funds from the World Bank and African Development Bank.
South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhitse, said the road construction project marked the beginning of joint projects between Lesotho and South Africa to develop communities living around the Drakensberg area.
“I take it for granted that we all know that we need good road infrastructure for facilitation of cross-border movement and eco-tourism development.
“Therefore the two countries have prioritised the upgrading of the Sani Pass Road,” Mabudafhitse said.
She said it became “quite obvious” that the road needed to be upgraded to allow easier access to tourists on both sides of the Lesotho-South Africa border.
“We were aware of the multiple challenges facing our countries such as inaccessibility of our tourism attractions and lack of adequate financial resources to improve our tourism assets,” Mabudafhitse said.
Mabudafhitse said the road on the South African side which is from Underberg to Sani Pass has already been completed.
Mabudafhitse urged businessmen to invest in the area adding that the area provided great opportunities for players in the tourism sector.
Lesotho and South Africa launched the Maloti Drakensburg Trans-Frontier Conservation and Development Project in 2001.
The project seeks to protect the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the region.