LHDA probes fake documents

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MASERU — The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) is investigating its officials allegedly producing fake documents to help resettled communities claim compensation they do not deserve.
LHDA boss Peter Makuta told the Lesotho Times yesterday that so far he had five cases involving officials who allegedly fraudulently authored agreements between the LHDA and communities affected by the construction of Mohale and Katse Dams.
The affected communities, armed with alleged fake documents, then approach the LHDA demanding compensation of amounts beyond those specified by the authority’s policy.
The LHDA’s compensation policy stipulates that communities affected by the construction of dams will be remunerated for the loss of their homesteads, crop fields, grazing land, water springs and other life amenities.
Once the communities are resettled to other areas, the policy requires that they be paid for their loss.
Their new homes should be developed in such a way that their standard of living will not be worse than before they were removed from their villages.
The development in their new home should also benefit their host village, the compensation policy states.
But some resettled communities are allegedly claiming compensation that is not stipulated in the policy.
Makuta said there is “a fraudulent attempt to rope the LHDA into promises it has not made.”
“These communities come here to claim waving documents that we do not know but have signatures associated with some of the LHDA employees,” Makuta said.
“At one time we even lost one case in which the court said an official who had signed a document we did not know anything about was doing so on behalf of the LHDA,” he said.
The LHDA documents and all its legal contracts should have a letterhead, Makuta said.
Agreements were entered into with communities after thorough discussions at public gatherings where village chiefs and other traditional leaders are present before individual families that will be directly affected were approached, Makuta said.
Communities that come to the LHDA with dubious documents do not show any involvement of their chiefs or other leaders except the agreement they entered into directly with LHDA officials, Makuta said.
The revelation that some LHDA officials write fraudulent agreements for resettled communities comes barely two weeks after families from three villages complained that the LHDA refused to honour its promises.
On July 19, families resettled from the Mohale Dam area during the dam construction over a decade ago threatened to bring their livestock to the Maseru city saying the LHDA ignored its obligation to them.
The 22 families that were resettled to Ha-Matala in Maseru in 1998 when the Mohale Dam was built said the LHDA refused to honour their agreement to pay them communal land compensation.
The families said the LHDA had promised to pay them an unspecified amount as individuals to compensate them for the loss of their grazing land, firewood, water springs and other essential life amenities for rural community.
Speaking on behalf of the families, ’Makouena Mohlomi said the LHDA had promised to pay each family a certain amount as compensation so that they could pay water bills because living in the city they would no longer have springs from which they would get water for free.
She said the LHDA would also give them money for fuel as they would never again fetch firewood which they used to get for free in their rural Ha-Mohale village.
She said the families would also individually be given money to compensate the loss of communal grazing land in which they grew their livestock which was their main source of income.
The community has also threatened to take to the streets in protest to the LHDA’s dishonour of its obligation.
Mohlomi said they were planning to show their discontent also to the Ombudsman, ’Matšoana Fanana, whom they accused of attempting to reverse a decision by the former Ombudsman, Sekara Mafisa, that the LHDA should pay according to the agreement.
“The former Ombudsman Sekara Mafisa called us and the LHDA to a meeting where he, after a thorough investigation of the matter, decided that we should be compensated as agreed,” Mohlomi said.
“But now we are surprised that the incumbent Ombudsman stopped the intervention by the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) saying she was going to study our case,” she said.
Mohlomi added, “There is nothing to study there because Ombudsman Mafisa had already made his findings and reached the conclusions.”
Fanana told the Lesotho Times last week that she was not attempting to reverse Mafisa’s decision but she was studying the contents of the community’s claim against what was said by the LHDA.
“I’m working for the public and I’m honestly studying this case because I want to be clear of what I am doing,” Fanana said.
Makuta said Mafisa made a second ruling based on a document that the LHDA is investigating for autheticity.
Last week, another group from Ha-Tsolo and Ha-Thetsane said the LHDA failed to compensate them after they were removed from their homes to give way for the construction of Kofi Annan Road in Maseru in 1998.
The group also says the LHDA had promised to build them new houses and help them with amenities in their new locations.
Makuta said he did not know of the group’s claim.
This group too has the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the LHDA should pay.
However, the document they relied upon does not have the LHDA’s letterhead and it is not signed.
The group told this paper that a public gathering was never held for their villages prior to their resettlement.
LHDA officials approached them individually, they said.

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