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DA dragged to court over Mafeteng radio station

by Sunday Express
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Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

THE High Court has postponed to March next year, a case in which Mafeteng Multi-Media Association (MMA) wants to interdict Mafeteng District Administrator (DA) MJ Fosa from interfering with the operations of Mafeteng Community Radio, which it owns.

MMA is a community-based organisation “dedicated to increasing literacy and raising the quality and effectiveness of the media within the entire Mafeteng district.”

The association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNESCO for the management and funding of the radio station, which was established in 2012.

Mafeteng DA, UNESCO and Attorney General appear as first to third respondents, respectively.

MMA on Monday submitted, through its lawyer, Advocate ’Maletsatsi Kao-Theoha, that based on the MoU, UNESCO “is the funder of the Mafeteng Community Radio, which is duly operated and owned by the applicant (MMA).”

According to evidence before the court, on 12 December 2013, Mr Fosa invited MMA members and UNESCO representatives to his office and informed them that he was dissolving the association’s Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Further attached to the court documents is a letter written by Mr Fosa to Station Manager Mathe Petlane, which reads: “This note serves to inform you that with effect from today, 12/12/13, the Board of Mafeteng Multi-Media Association, which was running the affairs of Mafeteng Community Radio, has been dissolved. Until further notice, you will be taking instructions from the District Administrator’s office in Mafeteng.”

However, Advocate Kao-Theoha is challenging the DA’s authority in making such a decision.

“This honourable court would readily realise that the first respondent does not feature anywhere in the affairs of the applicant nor those of the second respondent.

“He had no right to dissolve the executive committee because he did not appoint the said committee.

“That is why the applicant brought this matter before the court for an interdict to restrain the first respondent from interfering with the running of the station and also that his decision to dissolve the executive committee be declared null and void abinitio.

“The law is very clear that in order for the application to succeed, there are three requirements that it has to satisfy, namely clear right, irreparable harm and no alternative relief.

“It is our submission that on the first element, clear right, the applicant has a clear right in the running of Mafeteng Community Radio. This is so because the applicant, as a legally registered entity, has the right to own and operate the said radio station.

“Secondly the MoU signed between the second respondent and applicant is clear indication that the first respondent has no right whatsoever in the affairs of the applicant.

“Thirdly, a licence to operate the radio station was granted to the applicant. Therefore, it is our humble submission that the applicant has clearly proved to this honourable court that he has a clear right, and his application must succeed.

“On the second element, we also submit that the first respondent’s interference by dissolving the executive committee, has exposed the applicant and caused instability not only in the operation of the radio station but also the community of Mafeteng who appointed the executive committee but were not consulted and or informed about the decision to dissolve their own committee.

“Therefore the first respondent acted ultra vires in the circumstances. It is trite law that he who appoints may also terminate.

“It is stipulated that the executive committee will be elected every three years by a simple majority. However, in the present scenario, the first respondent acted on his own to make that decision.”

MMA chairperson, ’Mamaletsane Pheko, added in her affidavit: “The radio station acts as a peacemaking tool to the unending fights in the district among famo music artists, who are highly appreciative of the fact that this is a community radio that does not fall under any political party, church or government. Therefore, the DA’s decision that the station manager must report to him, in a way insinuates that the station is now under the Lesotho government, since he is a government employee. This could lead to further fights as those who do not support the current government may feel offended by this act.”

Presiding judge Justice Teboho Joseph Moiloa, noted Advocate Mokoena, who represents the respondents, “came unprepared”, before postponing the matter to “a date to be set in March next year”.



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