THE Lesotho Music Rights Association (LMRA) has accused politicians across the ideological divide of worsening divisions among famo artists by “using them” in drumming up support ahead of the 3 June 2017 election.
LMRA spokesperson Tšepang Makakole told the Sunday Express in an interview this past week that famo artists were only important to politicians during election campaigns and were discarded soon afterwards.
In response, Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Likeleli Tampane said the government has been trying all it could to bring peace and understanding among the artists.
Mr Makakole said the concerns the artists have raised over their working conditions had been ignored by successive governments since 2000.
“If the truth were to be told, we are a very important constituency which is only remembered in times of need such as elections by the politicians,” he said.
“This state of affairs is very unfortunate because when that phase has ended, we are called all sorts of unsavoury names including murderers.”
Mr Makakole said the government had claimed to be working towards finding a lasting solution to the famo gang warfare which has claimed more than 30 lives since 2009.
The famo gangs, namely Terene, Seakhi, Phula Bobete, Thanya Masoleng, Mahana Puso, Tornado and Terata ea Hlaba are based in the southern district of Mafeteng.
However, of the six groups or Makhotla, as they are popularly known in Sesotho, only Terene and Seakhi have been at loggerheads over which stable is better, and their turf-war has become one of the most divisive topics in Lesotho due to its political undertones.
The main opposition party All Basotho Convention is linked with the Terene gang while the seven-party coalition government is aligned to Seakhi.
The government in 2015 formed a subcommittee in a bid to end the turf wars that have claimed lives as recently as last year.
In the same year, Ms Tampane temporarily banned famo music from all radio stations and appealed to Basotho to shun all famo-related regalia until a “lasting solution” was found to the violence.
Mr Makakole said the government also confiscated the blankets and music compact discs (CDs) of some of the famo gangs during the crackdown.
However, he accused the government of favouritism, saying they had returned the blankets and CDs to some gangs while withholding from others.
“I have heard from the rumour mill that some of the confiscated blankets and CDs were returned to their owners while others were not. The government has not come out clearly on this issue.”
Mr Makakole said the Thomas Thabane-led first coalition government of 2012 to 2014 also failed to address their concerns.
“For instance, in 2012 famo artists were given a platform to perform at a very big concert. To date, we still have not been paid for that concert even after raising the matter with the DPM (Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing),” he said.
“It is obvious that beyond the upcoming election we will still face the same problems and be neglected as usual. Instead of the government uniting artists, they are dividing us.”
One of the issues the artists have been clamouring for is a government clampdown on music piracy.
“So far, the authorities are saying and doing nothing about music piracy. To make matters worse, our pirated music is played and distributed at political party rallies using flash drives,” said Mr Makakole.
“Our appeal to whoever forms government is for them to recognise and appreciate us and also collaborate with us in ensuring the killings come to an end.”
For her part, Ms Tampane acknowledged that the blankets were confiscated, but said she was not aware if they had been returned to their owners as alleged by Mr Makakole.
The minister revealed that cabinet had come up with a draft document of regulations for the famo music industry, adding that they were still in the process of amending it.
Contrary to the assertion the government was sowing divisions among famo artists, Ms Tampane said the government was doing all it could to bring peace and understanding among them.
“That’s why we called them for consultations in the preparations for the 50th independence anniversary celebrations,” she said.
“We were actually surprised by the attendance because they were unified, it’s then that we called for another meeting which unfortunately did not succeed,” Ms Tampane stated.
“There is no way we could divide the artists. We embrace everyone without discrimination since the artists are also tax-payers.”
Efforts to contact Bereng Majoro, who is the leader of the Seakhi group were not successful.
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