November 16, 2010

China-made parliament delayed

Lesotho's new parliament building, financed by a Chinese grant in 2005, has to be inaugurated later than planned. Both the Chinese contractors and works by Lesotho utilities had made mistakes. At the Mpilo Hill, outside the centre of Lesotho's capital Maseru, the nation's new parliament is rising. Works started already in October 2007, with a planned inauguration in July 2009. This was later postponed to November 2010, but is now once again delayed.

According to Lesotho's Public Works Minister Tsele Chakela, the Chinese contractors building the new parliament had both been delayed and made mistakes that had to be rectified. In addition, works commissioned by the Basotho government had yet to be implemented.

Mistakes by the Chinese contractor, Yanjian Construction Group, included part of the interior design, where, among others, chairs of the wrong colour had been delivered and installed. Further, a ramp that leads to the speaker's chair had been installed at the wrong place and needed to be removed.

Equally, according to Minister Chakela, the supply of water and electricity - which had been the responsibility of the government of Lesotho - had yet to be sorted out. Existing power supply would not be enough to cater for the building and a powerful water pump needed to be installed to secure water pressure in the new parliament.

While Minister Chakela had commissioned required works regarding the power and water supply, government had greater problems getting the Chinese company to fulfil its tasks as these were financed by the Chinese government, Basotho parliamentarians learned.

"All the aforementioned items have been formally communicated to the Chinese government by the government of Lesotho; currently we are awaiting approval and response from the Chinese Embassy. Upon approval, the completion date will be known," the Minister was quoted as saying by the Chinese news agency 'Xinhua'.

Indeed, Beijing authorities are deeply involved in details about the construction of the new Maseru parliament. After all, China promised to finance the works with a rand 64 million (euro 6.7 million) grant during an official visit of Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in Beijing in 2005.

The new parliament was to be a gift from the Chinese people to the Basotho people, launching a new era in the relations between the two nations. Most of the planning was therefore done in China, by Chinese engineers, and most materials in the new building are "Made in China."

The Ambassador of China to Lesotho, Qui Bohua, after the two-year planning and preparation process in 2007 told the Lesotho government how their new parliament would become: The five store structure that would house parliament would cover a floor space of 6,800 square metres, with its construction area totalling 7,200 square metres.

The new Maseru parliament building would, among others, "accommodate parliamentarians and their families" and assure the provision of "Internet cafes and offices for staff members," it was learnt.

Lesotho is not the only African country provided with highly symbolic gifts from Chinese authorities. Only in May this year, the Chinese government handed over a "new magnificent parliament building" in Lilongwe to Malawi's President Bingu Wa Mutharika. The gift was made after Malawi cut ties with Taiwan and deepened relations with Beijing. (afrol news)

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