MASERU — The government says it will stop a local business tycoon from operating his tar processing business in a residential area in Maseru South West (Masowe) after an outcry from residents reached parliament early last month.
Justice Minister Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, speaking on behalf of Local Government Minister Pontšo Sekatle, told parliament that tar processing in Masowe will stop immediately after Sam Matekane has removed his machines from the area.
Mahase-Moiloa said the site used for the tar processing did not belong to the businessman but is part of the Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation, owned by the government.
Mahase-Moiloa was responding to a question by Qoaling MP, ’Mapheello Tšuluba, on whether the government was aware of the air pollution caused by tar processing in Masowe, which is said to emit ash fallout, smoke, and an offensive smell.
Tšuluba also wanted the government to expose the authority which granted permission for tar to be processed in the residential area and the identity of the business owner.
She also wanted to know measures that the government would take against the company and how residents in the area would be protected.
The MP also enquired whether the government would remove Matekane’s tar processing business from the area.
“The site belongs to the Lesotho Housing,” Mahase-Moiloa said.
“Immediately when Mr Sam Matekane has removed his machines from the area, the tar processing activity will stop,” she said without mentioning any dates.
Mahase-Moiloa said the site was previously used by a South African construction company as its camp during the building of the Kofi Annan Road some years ago.
The company had been given a temporary permit by the Maseru City Council (MCC) to use the site until the completion of the road construction.
“After the Kofi Annan Road construction was completed the constructor sold his tar processing machines to Mr Sam Matekane,” Mahase-Moiloa said.
However, at the time there were no buildings around the place although it had already been earmarked for residential purposes.
Masowe residents told the Lesotho Times that the tar processing plant and a nearby illegal dumpsite mostly used by textile factories from the Thetsane industrial area have turned their lives into hell.
The people who bought residential sites from the Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation in the middle income housing project said they do not live comfortably because of Matekane’s business and the waste heap at the dump site.
They said the entire village stinks and smoke chokes them while black soot stains their clothes every time tar is processed.
Some said they had removed curtains from their windows because smoke from the tar processing plant makes them black within a few days.
A resident whose house is about 100 metres from Matekane’s plant and 200 metres from the illegal dumpsite said they had complained to the authorities for a long time without getting any help.
Pule Mosabala said the people decided to take the matter up with the authorities after realising that “it was difficult for us to live a normal life in this situation.”
He said, “I spend days with an aching chest after inhaling the smoke.”
A former local chief assistant, Nare Matlali, said he used to convene the people to complain to the local councillor and the MP but “up until today there is no answer from them.”
A laboratory technician at the plant, Lejone Moletsane, denied that there is a bad smell or any offensive smell coming from the plant.
Moletsane said the only thing that the people could complain about is dust raised when the tar is cleaned.
“The dust that comes from here is treated with water and I am convinced that it does not reach the surrounding houses,” he said.
“As for the chemicals I am sure that they do not have any effect on residents because even people working within this yard are not affected.”
Instead Moletsane blamed the nearby illegal dumpsite where textile factories from Thetsane discard their wastes. “The bad smell they are complaining about is from that dumpsite, not from here.”