Open Letter to President Ramaphosa on the Occasion of SOD Turning of LHWP Phase II Main works on 23rd May 2023

The Presidency

Union Buildings

Government Avenue,


Private Bag X1000,



19th May 2023

Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa,

Your visit to Polihali, Mokhotlong, to officially launch full-scale construction work of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP II) on the 23rd of May 2023, is highly welcomed.

Mr. President, when this project was concluded under the 1986 LHWP Treaty, it was celebrated for the immense economic returns that would accrue to both Lesotho and South Africa including sustainable development for local affected communities. South Africa and Lesotho made an undertaking, in the Treaty, “to take all reasonable measures to ensure that the implementation, operation, and maintenance of the Project are compatible with the protection of the existing quality of the environment and, in particular, shall pay due regard to the maintenance of the welfare of persons and communities immediately affected by the project.” The reality for communities, however, is in stark contrast to this undertaking.

As you know, Phase I of this project, which involved the construction of Katse Dam (under Phase IA) and Mohale Dam (under Phase IB) was inaugurated in 2004. Over 20 000 people were directly affected by this first phase of LHWP. Thousands remain without compensation for the adverse impacts of the project on their lives and no efforts were made to actively ensure that communities get direct economic benefits. Communities living in the vicinity of both the Katse and Mohale Dams endure consistent violations of their right to access to clean water, as access to natural springs and other water sources was impacted by the dams. Mr. President, communities are not allowed to access water from the dams to drink their animals or to irrigate their crops. Women within LHWP Phase II affected communities are already marginalized as a result of cultural stereotypes which prevent women from owning land and benefiting from compensation for land rights that get affected by LHWP. Lack of access to water further marginalizes them and exacerbates their inability to break free of poverty.

While there is a responsibility for the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority to uphold the agreement, there is a significant perception among communities affected that impacts the image of South Africa negatively. This fundamentally detracts from South Africa’s Africa Agenda and desire to be a partner to Africans. Moreover, affected communities are likely to seek further economic opportunities in South Africa.

Mr. President, you may recall that the LHWP Treaty was signed during the apartheid government in South Africa and a military regime in Lesotho. It was concluded during a period when both governments had no regard for human rights and the dictates of democracy and good governance. In fact, no consultations were undertaken at all with the people of Lesotho in general and the affected communities. Any dissent expressed against this project was thwarted with threats and violence. It is therefore not surprising Mr. President that the Treaty has failed to promote, respect, and protect the human rights of people immediately affected by the project.

When South Africa decided to implement Phase II following prolonged negotiations and signed the agreement to that effect in 2011, it was in the context of these residual issues which remain outstanding to date. This occasion of your visit to the Polihali Dam project site presents an opportunity to ensure that this phase does not repeat the same mistakes, and guarantee that the communities who have given way to this dam are placed at the center of this project. 

Mr. President, the further implementation of advanced infrastructure works to pave the way for the construction of LHWP II, known as the Polihali Dam has already had an adverse impact on the livelihoods of communities affected by this component of the project. Land and other natural resources which are the basis of the communities’ livelihoods have been expropriated by the project without payment and compensation. The transition into the next component of LHWP II, marked by the occasion of your visit on the 23rd of May 2023, will lead to the renewed physical and economic displacement of families. The LHWP Phase II feasibility studies have estimated that about 16 villages will require to be relocated or resettled due to close proximity to the dam and/or significantly impeded access in the event of floods. And again, thousands will be economically displaced as a result of the acquisition and inundation of their agricultural land, grazing land, including natural resources. The result is imminent food insecurity, impoverishment, and the breakdown of social networks and culture.

Climate change and the growing South African population and economy dictate that South Africa will increasingly rely on water from Lesotho. The role and importance of LHWP and the anticipated phases beyond the Polihali Dam, necessitate that great care be taken to secure ownership and buy-in of communities who have hitherto remained dissatisfied with this project. The challenge, Mr. President, for this occasion and for the government of South Africa is to address South Africa’s interests in keeping this bilateral project more significant to both countries without losing sight of the longer-term sustainable development of local communities.

We, therefore, call upon you to:

1) Review, as a matter of urgency, the LHWP Treaty to align it with the international human rights standards for better protection and promotion of the rights of affected communities.

2) Devote your time whilst in Lesotho to meet with Civil Society Organisations and the communities affected to hear their concerns regarding the implementation of LHWP Phase II first-hand.

3) Engage the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho and LHWP’s implementing authorities on the challenges facing communities affected by Phase I and Phase II of the LHWP, address human rights violations of communities, and ensure their right to development and restore their livelihoods.

4) Assist the Kingdom of Lesotho and Lesotho Highlands Development Authority to overhaul the entire LHWP Legal and Compensation Framework, to ensure fair and adequate compensation for communities.

5) Support the Kingdom of Lesotho and Lesotho Highlands Development Authority to formulate as a matter of urgency, Livelihoods Restoration Policy, which is in line with best international standards, to ensure that affected communities’ livelihoods are improved.

6) Undertake, as a matter of urgency, a forensic audit of all compensation funds intended for the affected people.



1. Seinoli Legal Centre (SLC)

2. Survivors of Lesotho Dams (SOLD)

3. Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP)

4. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

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The Seinoli Legal Centre (SLC) leverages the Rule of Law as a tool for protecting, restoring, and enhancing the sustainable livelihoods of local communities. Our mission is to provide communities affected by large development projects with sustained, comprehensive access to the law to safeguard social, economic, and environmental rights. Our comprehensive and unique approach combines strategic litigation, advocacy, and capacity building of both our local client communities and the local legal system.

Project/ Job Summary

Seinoli is looking for a professional filmmaker or film production company to produce a documentary film, which will document the environmental, social, and economic impacts of large water infrastructure projects on the local communities in Lesotho. The intention is to draw attention to the human rights violations which marginalized communities endure as a sacrifice for the economic growth of their country, to influence policy, and to secure better development outcomes for the community.

The foundation of the documentary will be on the LHWP-affected communities in both Phase I and II and showcase the impacts in both phases and draw lessons that should inform the implementation process and development of policies for the anticipated Lesotho Botswana Water Transfer Scheme. The entire film production which includes filming, editing, voicing/narration, etc. should be done by the film expert, delivering a final ready-to-air product in broadcast standards and in HD technology format 16:9. The entire development and production process will be closely monitored by Seinoli and will provide a continuous review, comments, and thematic inputs support when needed.

Key Responsibilities/ Main duties

Seinoli has already produced three film pieces in the two project areas, where the LHWP phase II is currently being implemented, and in Makhaleng where the new L-BWT scheme will be implemented. Two more film pieces are expected to be shot and all five short films merged together in one 45min-1 hour documentary, with voiceovers and English subtitles. In order to achieve this, the selected individual or company is required to carry out the following:

• Visit the selected project sites and interact with the local communities/beneficiaries who have been impacted by the project.

• Submit a storyboard and script for the documentary.

• A detailed timeline and work plan should be submitted. A detailed budget and shooting schedule (pre-production, production, and post-production should be provided upon contract signing.

• Perform appropriate video filming and shoot interviews with the projects’ beneficiaries and stakeholders, and produce high-quality project still photographs.

• Incorporate all five film pieces into one final documentary film of about 45 min-1 hour. 

• Add relevant audio-visual material such as background music and scenic videos shot during production or which have been sourced from public domains but acknowledge sources.

• Deliver the final products through a cloud storage platform; final files will include completed videos in MP4 format and open files (raw project files) and photographs in JPEG format.


The duration of the entire project is expected to take 40 working days from the date of signing. This includes 10 days of the actual shooting in Mokhotlong and Katse respectively. The editing period will be one month, which involves editing of the two films and compiling all five films into one documentary of about 45min- 1 hour.

Key deliverables:

1 documentary of about 45min-1 hour with voice-overs, English subtitles, aerial shots, and still pictures.

Interested individuals or companies should submit a technical and financial proposal in relation to the terms of reference indicating their interest and providing the following information and documents

1. Detailed Company profile

2. More than 5 years of experience working in the film industry or a similar field. 

3. Submit a portfolio consisting of documented work experience in the area of film/reportage/documentary writing, producing, directing and editing, and photography.

4. References indicating collaboration and work with non-governmental organizations.


Provide a detailed breakdown of all estimated costs, including estimated days of shooting, production team, days of editing, travel costs, music, and total cost for the final product. Please note that no additional payments will be made outside of the total budget.

Expression of interest by individuals or companies should be submitted via email to by the 2nd of June 2023. Applications must be submitted in PDF.

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