Community ready for opening of industrial estate

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Newly completed rental houses at Ha Belo ready for occupancy

By Mateliso Phulane

Residents of Ha-Belo in the Botha-Bothe district are looking forward to the opening of the Ha Belo Industrial Estate later this year, which they believe will open doors to an assortment of life-changing opportunities. 

The construction of the M900 million Ha-Belo Industrial Estate commenced in January 2018. It is a government-owned project developed by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC). Phase-1 of the project is expected to deliver 16 factory shells which is expected to employ over 14 500 people upon the completion of construction.

Subsequently, phases of the project will create 41,000 jobs from 51 shells. Among prospective tenants, the sites will cater for the textile industry, agri-business and other sectors.

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In a recent interview with theReporter, local businesswomen ‘Mathandeka Mathebula who operates a tavern at Ha Belo, said she can’t wait for the project to be operational as it will mean more patrons for her business.

“I really cannot describe the excitement that the imminent opening of factories has brought to our area. Hopefully, my alcohol business will flourish better than now. There will be more customers, and that will enable me to grow the business even expand it further,” she said.

Mathebula said business is in good in summer, compared to winter when people drink less.  She makes M7 000 monthly winter while her earnings in summer exceed M12 000 a month. In the lights of this, she is looking forward to her profits increasing at least two-fold when the project is finally up and running. 

“My only challenge is unruly customers who are violent when intoxicated, forcing my tavern to close early or even call the police.  

“That is something I will not tolerate. So in preparation for the impending business boom, I will enforce tighter security measures such as subjecting suspicious clients to a body search for dangerous weapons,” she concluded.

Another woman who preferred to remain anonymous said the major benefit that the community is looking forward to is the supply of clean potable running water, which is a novelty they do not enjoy at the moment. 

“Accessibility of water is a serious concern in our community as we buy water from people who have installed boreholes in their yards. Sometimes we buy from privately owned tankers that distribute water to our village.

“Apart from that, to do laundry we get water from a very small spring which is dries up in summer if there is no rainfall. So the industrial estate will ease our water shortage problems.

“In addition to that, the industrial estate will reduce unemployment. I am currently not employed, so I hope I will get luck and secure a job in one of the factories. My only concern is the stiff competition. Many people are expecting to get jobs due to high rate of unemployment in the country. That is why I am scared of the competition because I do not even have enough experience in sewing,” she said.

The District Administrator of Botha-Bothe, Tṧepa Chaba, attributed the delayed opening of the Ha Belo Industrial Estate to lack of water and power supply in the factory shells, but made an assurance that the connection has already began.

“The industrial area was initially scheduled to open last year but lack of water and electricity supply negatively impacted the project’s completion. However, we are looking forward to it opening before the end of this year so can change the community’s lives for the better, through job creation and other forms of development.

“Lack of water supply is major crisis at Ha-Belo, so we believe the community will benefit a lot from a reliable water supply at the estate.  However, as the district administration we are frustrated by the practice of people that sell off land meant for agriculture purposes, to people who end up building rental houses, without our approval. That is wrong.

“Rental houses are mushrooming rapidly at Ha Belo in anticipation of people who will be flocking in from other districts. The bottom line is that land meant for food production purposes is now being used for something else. The end result is of this practice is that we now have diminished arable land,” he added.

Meanwhile, another resident Mohau Motiea, who is currently in the process of constructing rental houses near the Ha Belo Industrial Estate, said he is building the houses so that when the factories start operating people will not have to struggle with accommodation and find themselves having to travel long distances every day.

He said when the construction of the factory shells started, he saw a business opportunity and grabbed it.

“I am optimistic that in September this year, the houses will be ready, then I will rent them out. They are two roomed houses and I am hoping to charge M800 per rental house.

“The Ha Belo factories are going to open many job opportunities and the Botha Bothe economy will grow. Many communities around here are going to benefit from this project,” Motiea said.