Lesotho exports water to South Africa, although citizens complain about a lack of drinking water. The condition of wetlands shows that the problem could become even more serious. Photos: Roger Jardine

The Katse Dam nestles picturesquely into the mountain slopes, meandering through several valleys, the smooth surface of the water reflecting the clouds in the Lesotho highlands. The small kingdom in the mountains, which is surrounded by neighboring South Africa, is considered the water tower of the entire region. The dam has been supplying the South African economic center around Johannesburg with drinking water since 1998.

It is the heart of the so-called Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which consists of dams, tunnel systems, pumping stations and hydroelectric power plants. It is one of the “most successful cross-border water management systems in the world,” says the responsible authority, the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), proudly.

“The water belongs to South Africa and no longer to us”

But when Mothusi Seqhee looks at the huge, glittering expanse of water, he sees something different: “The water belongs to South Africa and no longer to us,” he says. “We cannot use it as we want. That is a problem.” Seqhee works for the Seinoli Legal Centre – a non-governmental organisation founded in 2010 to represent the interests of villagers who were relocated or dispossessed because of this major project. 

In the valley between the mountains, the water surface of the Katse reservoir glitters
The Katse Dam
Seqhee stands in front of the mountain landscape, wearing a turtleneck sweater, a blue jacket and looking into the camera
Mothusi Seqhee from Seinoli Legal Centre