Press statement: Ha Lejone Community seeks Enforcement of Court Judgement against the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority
After a lengthy court battle, the Khabang Lejone Multipurpose Co-Operative, representing the Ha Lejone community, obtained judgement in the High Court of Lesotho against the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (the LHDA) for payment of communal compensation dating back to 2004. The amount claimed is M1 409 482,83, of which M409 482,83 is payable immediately.
The Court delivered the judgement on the 10th September 2015. However, the LHDA has made no effort to communicate with the community and has given no indication that it will respect the judgment, or that it will pay the amount as ordered by the Court. Lawyers representing the community have now issued a final demand for payment and if the claim is not paid, will proceed with a warrant of execution against the assets of the LHDA.
Khabang Lejone: Summary of Judgment of 10 September 2015
The judgment in the dispute between the Khabang Lejone cooperative (“the Cooperative”) and the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), was handed down by Molete J, of the Lesotho Commercial Court, on September 10th 2015.
The Cooperative had claimed for compensation due under the Lesotho Highlands Water Compensation Regulations of 1990 and the Compensation Policy of 1997. Under the overarching treaty – the Lesotho Highlands Water Treaty 1986 – the compensation promised was to be sufficient to enable the beneficiaries “to maintain a standard of living not inferior to that obtaining at the time of first disturbance.”
Seinoli Legal Centre
The Seinoli Legal Centre offers free legal services to communities affected by development in Lesotho. Based in Maseru, it is aiding local Basotho communities that have been severely affected by the first phase of construction of the Katse and Mohale Dams. This is only the start; the Lesotho Highlands Water Project are planning five more phases so the Centre is having to work hard to prepare the communities for the next phase.
Progress for the Ha Lejone Co-operatives
The Ha Lejone Cooperative is just one of 66 local community groups that have formed to press for compensation for its members for their loss of brushwood, fodder and traditional medicines.
They have waited for many years to receive that compensation and in July 2012, with Protimos’ help, they decided to go to court. In October that year, just before the hearing, the LHDA issued an ‘interpleader’, arguing that the overdue compensation should go to the government and not to any of the cooperatives. The Cooperative fought on and the case was heard in March 2014. The Ha Lejone Cooperative won the case – with costs.
Protimos and the Clinton Global Initiative
Protimos empowers marginalised communities in developing countries to use the law to protect their social, economic and environmental interests.
The fortunes of communities in developing countries are increasingly shaped by their relationships with governments, businesses and other powerful institutions. However, unfamiliarity with legal processes coupled with limited access to qualified lawyers puts them at a significant disadvantage and marginalises them from the development process.
Protimos aims to level the playing field by supporting the professional development of local lawyers and by improving legal systems. In so doing, Protimos develops sustainable legal resources that enable communities to become active and effective participants in their own futures.