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Govt ‘sabotages’ TRC political debate

 

TRC Programmes Director Tsikoane Peshoane

. . . as DC boycotts ‘discredited’ forum  

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

THE Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) Programmes Director Tsikoane Peshoane says the government’s 11th hour cancellation of a live broadcast of the civil society organisation’s political debate on Friday was tantamount to sabotage.

A fuming Mr Peshoane told the Sunday Express that modalities for the holding of the live television and radio broadcast were finalised last month with then Communications, Science and Technology Principal Secretary (PS) Tšeliso Khomari.

Mr Khomari’s tenure ended at the end of last month, with the position currently being held by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s daughter, Thato, in an acting capacity.

However, Mr Peshoane said Ms Mosisili ordered the Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) crew to cancel the broadcast just before the debate was about to begin “because she had not approved the arrangement”.

Mr Peshoane also directed his ire at Dr Mosisili’s Political and Economic Adviser Fako Likoti, saying he influenced the Democratic Congress (DC) to boycott the debate despite the TRC and the party having worked harmoniously in constituency forums.

Dr Likoti has since hit back at Mr Peshoane, saying the DC leadership resolved by itself not to participate in debates organised by “discredited and partisan” civil society organisations like the TRC.

The political debate was organised by the TRC in conjunction with the European Union ahead of next Saturday’s National Assembly elections.

Seven political parties, namely the DC, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC) had been invited to participate in the debate at ’Manthabiseng National Convention Centre.

All the parties, with the exception of the DC, participated in the debate which delved on the themes of the economy and unemployment, as well as the rule of law in a democracy.

The parties’ representatives were, ABC leader Thomas Thabane, his BNP counterpart, Thesele ’Maseribane, MEC leader Selibe Mochoboroane, RCL deputy leader Motloheloa Phooko, AD Secretary-General Mokhele Moletsane as well as LCD candidate for Berea constituency and Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana.

Ahead of the debate, the LNBS crew had already set up their equipment to cover the event for TV Lesotho and Radio Lesotho. However, the crew abruptly disassembled their equipment and left the conference centre minutes before the starting time for the event without proffering an explanation.

Mr Peshoane explained to the Sunday Express on the side-lines of the debate that Ms Mosisili had ordered the LNBS crew to cancel the broadcast.

“I received a report that the acting PS, Ms Thato Mosisili, ordered journalists from TV Lesotho and Radio Lesotho to cancel the broadcast and take back their equipment to the office because she had not approved this arrangement herself,” he said.

“As you have noticed, the journalists were already here and ready to start the broadcast, but they had to undo all the preparations they had made for the live broadcast.”

Mr Peshoane said arrangements for the broadcast were made since last month with Mr Khomari.

“We agreed to work hand-in-hand with the LNBS for the success of this debate. Ntate Khomari even arranged for a joint stakeholder meeting where both the directors of TV Lesotho and Radio Lesotho were present.

“It comes as a surprise and shock to be told at the last minute that the acting PS is saying she was not informed about the arrangement and has called off the broadcast. We see this as plain sabotage by the government.”

Asked why the DC had not attended the debate, Mr Peshoane said: “The DC was one of the first parties we invited for this occasion. We formally wrote an invitation letter to them on 2 May 2017.

“But we did not receive any formal communication on why they have not attended the debate, except to hear from some activists in the party that the DC leadership cannot come here to be humiliated. We are puzzled by those claims and don’t know what is meant by that.”

The TRC programmes director said he was especially surprised by the DC’s boycott since they had worked well together during constituency forums.

“The irony lies in the fact that when we were having constituency forums, DC members attended them.

“We have not received any reports from them that they were heckled or done wrong in any manner. It doesn’t make any sense now for them to say they don’t want to be humiliated by attending the debate.”

Mr Peshoane pointed to Dr Likoti as the likely reason for the DC snub, saying the premier’s adviser had “persistently interfered” in the preparations for the event.

“I want to believe their (DC leaders) not-coming was influenced by Dr Likoti, who has consistently interfered in the preparations.

“Even though Ntate Likoti doesn’t have a locus standi in this matter in our opinion, he seems to be the one who misled the government into suddenly pulling out of this arrangement in such a shocking way.

Ntate Likoti has always been saying that the DC would not be coming to this debate. But we didn’t take his position seriously because he is not even in the formal structures of the party. We even asked why he couldn’t write to us formally to give the position of the DC to no avail.”

He said the last minute withdrawal of the LNBS had caused a lot of disruption at the debate.

“The attendees became uncertain on whether the debate would go on or not. At the same time, a lot of people had been informed that they would be listening to and watching this debate on radio and television.

“This cancellation is not an embarrassment for the TRC, but it leaves so much to be desired on the part of the government.

“The advertisement of this debate was being aired on both the national television and radio. If the government knew it would not participate in this event, they should have informed us in advance and cancelled the adverts. This was clearly a planned sabotage of this event, which has serious financial implications.”

Mr Peshoane’s sentiments were echoed by the opposition leaders, who accused the government of abusing their powers, by “capturing and monopolising the state media” for political ends.

Meanwhile, Dr Likoti urged Mr Peshoane to “undertake a deep reflection of the TRC’s conduct before making such allegations” in an interview with this publication.

He said the DC leadership, and not him, decided to boycott the debate because of the TRC’s “long track record” of fighting against the seven-party coalition government.

The DC also shunned a National University of Lesotho (NUL) organised political debate held earlier this month saying the institution’s management was “actively fighting the government”.

“The TRC has been at the forefront of campaigns to embarrass and ridicule the government, and their conduct has not been lost on the DC leadership,” Dr Likoti said.

“I am not a DC National Executive Committee member, but a party activist. But what I can tell you for certain is that the DC leadership resolved by themselves not to attend this debate convened by a discredited civil society organisation.”

He said Mr Peshoane’s claim that the DC and TRC worked harmoniously during constituency forums was “hogwash”.

“A DC supporter could not take the vilification of his party any longer during a recent TRC constituency forum held in Mafeteng and just walked out.

“So, I find it surprising to hear that the DC worked harmoniously with the TRC. As a result, the DC cannot participate in an event convened by discredited and partisan people just like the recent NUL-organised event.”

Repeated efforts to contact Ms Mosisili proved fruitless yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

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