Giving a voice to the voiceless

Giving a voice to the voiceless

Rose Moremoholo


“We felt left out.”

That was the message that the community in Quthing sent despite the over 20 radio stations that are currently broadcasting in Lesotho.

Most of the radio stations, which are privately owned, have limited reach with the majority of the stations only reaching Maseru and its confines.

So for the people of Quthing, about 200km south-east of the capital Maseru, they have remained in an information vacuum.

Besides the issue of reachability, there was also the issue of language. Quthing is home to a small community of Xhosa and Phuthi speakers. But the two minority languages have never been given legal recognition in Lesotho.

For the Xhosa and Phuthi community, they have been literally forced to listen to the news in the Sesotho language although it is not their mother tongue.

“We were not very happy with the number of radio stations that are in the country but cannot reach us,” said Anna Shale.

Shale is the chairperson of a new community radio station, PhashakweXhili, (in Xhosa), EmoshiyakweSeaka in Phuthi and Moseho Seaka in Sesotho which was launched by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) – Lesotho in Quthing last Saturday.

The radio station will broadcast in Xhosa and Phuthi in addition to Sesotho.

The launch was part of the celebrations to mark World Press Freedom Day held on May 3 every year. The celebration was held under the theme, “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This Is Your Right”.

Shale said the new community radio station is for the people of Quthing and they “should invest in it and make it work for us”.

The equipment to set up the radio station was donated by MISA under its project, “Access to Information Through Establishment of Community Radio Stations” and was financed by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

The idea was to set up a radio station for marginalised communities that did not have a chance to discuss issues that affect their communities because there was no news medium in their languages.

MISA national director, Tsebo Matšasa, said it is critical that every district has a radio that articulates its own issues and provide a platform to tackle social and political issues that affect them.

MISA chairman Malakeng Hloma said “biased reporting is still a challenge” at most radio stations in Lesotho.

“It is even going to be harder for a multilingual station such as this because there is a range of tribes and cultures to satisfy and if not done well one language might be compromised,” Hloma said.

Hloma said access to information will only be possible when the country passes laws that make it mandatory to provide needed information.

“I am very delighted to see that among the committee members there is a person representing the traditional doctors, she will teach the community about tradition and its values,” Hloma said.

TheMP for Moyeni, Mahooana Khati,warned the radio not to violate Lesotho’s communication laws.

“We have seen a lot of stations open and close down because they abused the freedom that was given to them. You have a right to information as a journalist but journalists and reporters often abuse this right,” Khati said.

Khati said his concern was the reporting of people’s personal lives at the expense of news that benefit the community.

“It worries me that there is a tendency of reporting on (private) life of a certain person and issues that affect the nation and are of benefit to the community are simply ignored” he said.

“However, I know that, you will not do that. Be careful how you will approach issues. Approach issues that are sensitive in a sensitive manner and be disciplined,” Khati said.

He promised to donate M5000 to the station and to encourage other MPs in neighbouring constituencies in Quthing to donate funds to support the radio station.

Seeiso Moshoeshoe, the Quthing District Administrator, said when he visited the US in the 1970s he saw that every city had its own radio station and he had always wished Lesotho could do the same.

“At the time, back in Lesotho, we had only Radio Lesotho and a few newspapers that didn’t even make it to districts. I wondered when Lesotho would be like this developed country. We are slowly getting there,” Moshoeshoe said.

Moshoeshoe said he was very delighted that the station will broadcast in all Quthing languages because “this will bring us together as the people of Quthing.”

“We have gone past the years where a Xhosa student attending high school in town, where Sesotho is common, would fear to speak his or her language freely. Nowadays, they all communicate in all these three languages and no one feels like an outcast,” he said.

Thato Morohoana, a community member in Quthing, said:“We now have an opportunity to make our voices heard, to hear what the world and the country as well as our community, are saying.”

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