…As he speaks on Queen II demolition
“I never took any bribes of anything, let alone the demolition of Queen II as people are busy insinuating,” Mothabathe Hlalele speaks out.
He opened up about the controversial demolition of the over 100- year old hospital which had been making headlines for the past year.
The brawl of the hospital ranged from corruption rumours between Principal Secretaries of the Health and the Public Works Ministries.
The fight escalated when former Health Minister Nkaku Kabi suggested that the demolition can be done with mere hummers, using manual labour.
The walls of Queen II cracked at the height of the country’s lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak in April, a move which spark debate among Basotho quizzing why and how was construction works happening when all businesses were on standstill, at that time, rumours that Hlalele fast tracked the demolition process to gain finally spark.
Breaking his silence, the PS revealed to Newsday that he did not instigate the demolition of Queen II nor did he benefit from the project.
“The project was initially handed over to Works Ministry last year on January 23, and the ministry duly issued a tender notice and those who won were awarded. Following the tendering processes, we were told to hold the process because the Health Ministry was still shopping for cheaper options of demolishing the hospital and we were told they were still in talks with the Lesotho Defence Force, who at the time had promised that labour pro bono.
“Unfortunately the logistics of the military took longer than expected and the Health Ministry succumbed to the Chinese government’s pressure to tear down the hospital, that’s when they reverted back to us,” the PS Explained.
He added, “That is when the Ministry of Health for the second time wrote to us and asked to negotiate the prices with the contractors that were already selected.”
Hlalele indicated that he was not privy of information why the Health, LDF talks truly collapsed, however noted that they were obligated to assist Health negotiate down the tender prices which roughly cost M28 254, 27200 million.
According to Hlalele, the project had three Lot categories.
The first demolition lot was priced M19 904, 293 million, the second haulage lot M8 299, 999 million while the salvage lot cost M3 291, 313.
The demolition lot was awarded to Mafike, Shield and Choice Consortium, the haulage lot was awarded to Kaze, Lilema and LJ joint Venture and the Salvage lot was awarded Griffin, Lero and Notsi Consortium.
“Health only had M16mililion from which we had to negotiate down. We had to negotiate the contractors to lessen their prices where the demolition lot was cut to M10 million, haulage lot was downed to M5 million while salvage was trimmed down to M1.6 million,” Hlalele explained.
Apart from the China’s mounting pressure on the Health Ministry, Hlalele indicated the decision to work during lockdown was best suited for the job done.
“We had to set-off the knocking down of the buildings during lockdown because we were behind schedule as I had mentioned because China was already putting pressure on the health ministry. Secondly, the situation was conducive to commence working because it was not crowded,” he said.
“If we had waited, we were going to delay the process and working at a packed environment was going to cause a lot of accidents and obstruction of traffic because of the hospital geographic location.”
He added, “It is an unsettling matter when people say I give the Chinese construction tenders over Basotho whereas, of over 100 registered construction companies that we have, only five companies are those of Chinese.
“Even with this Queen II project, some people were mouthing that Manyokole and Hlalele are going to give the tender to John (Yan Jian) and we will be rewarded big imbursement. John couldn’t get that contract because it was reserved for indigenous Basotho only,” Hlalele said.