Harvest FM owner in trouble over new party

Harvest FM owner in trouble over new party

MASERU-‘MALICHABA Lekhoaba’s foray into politics has put her on a collision course with the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA), the broadcasting and telecommunications regulator.
thepost can reveal that the LCA is worried about Lekhoaba leading a political party and owning a radio station.

Lekhoaba is the major shareholder of Harvest FM and leader of the recently formed Unite for Change. She is also the managing director of the radio station.

The LCA is apprehensive that Lekhoaba might use Harvest FM to promote her own political party.
Because of her political interest, the authority fears, Harvest FM might not provide a fair platform for other political parties.
So serious is this concern that the LCA called a meeting with Lekhoaba on Monday.

Lekhoaba described that virtual meeting with ’Mamarame Matela, the LCA chief executive, and another official from the authority, as “tense and unusual”.

“They said they fear that Harvest FM’s programmes will not be fair because I am now leading a party,” Lekhoaba said.
“I said if that is their fear then I would not be buying advertising slots on Harvest FM but they kept insisting that I could still be biased and promote my political party.”

She said what surprised her was that the LCA officials were sending conflicting messages.
“The meeting started with them congratulating me for forming a political party but then they said I was falling foul of the law. This was clearly a contradiction.”

Lekhoaba said she told the LCA officials that the Unite for Change is not her personal property.
“My point was that the party and the radio station should not be viewed as the same in terms of the ownership. I own Harvest FM but the political party is an organisation I lead.”

“I insisted that there is nothing in the laws of this country that stops me from leading a political party. If anything, I am exercising my right to freedom of association which is enshrined in the constitution.”
The LCA officials also said Lekhoaba should have informed them before forming the party but Lekhoaba said she retorted she was already in the process when journalists caught wind of the party’s registration.
“I said I was still going to tell them about the changes but journalists were already asking questions so I had to confirm.”

“Their position was that I should have refused to comment but I said I was not going to deny the existence of the party because that would be lying.”
Lekhoaba said when the LCA officials insisted, she “reminded them that there is no fixed timeframe that she should inform them about changes at the radio station”.

“Yes I should inform them about the changes but the law doesn’t give a specific period of when that should happen.”
Tšiu Tšiu, the LCA’s Public Relations Manager, said the authority’s main concern is to ensure that Harvest FM complies with the condition of its licence.

Tšiu said Lekhoaba could not own a radio station and lead a political party at the same time because that will be a “conflict of interest”.
“Our problem is with the terms of the licence. If she was in politics and applying for a licence we would not allow it. The same applies when she ventures into politics while owning a radio station,” Tšiu said.
“There is nothing in the law that says she cannot enter politics but there should be clarity on her role in both entities. She cannot be in both.”
“We don’t want people in the politics to own radio stations because they could use they as megaphones.”
He said the meeting on Monday was part of the preliminary process to establish facts.

“She confirmed that she is forming a party. The internal process now is to get clarity on the management of the station according to the licence conditions.”

Tšiu said Lekhoaba is still within the timeframe required for her to inform the LCA about the changes at the station.
But Lekhoaba said she is “not shaken by the LCA’s concern because they are not based on any law”.

“This time I am going to fight for my rights. I am not joking because we are talking about a national issue here. I have not violated any law and no one should stop me from forming a party.”
“There is no law that says someone who owns a radio station should not own or form a political party.’’

Staff Reporter

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