MASERU – Reverend Adam Lekhoaba, died at Mediclinic in Bloemfontein last Thursday. He was 38.
Rev Lekhoaba was the owner and manager of popular private radio station Harvest FM.
As a fearless broadcaster Lekhoaba was a thorn in the flesh of the government of Lesotho
He was a controversial but colourful figure who did not hesitate to speak his mind even if it meant creating enemies in the way.
His booming voice finally went silent last Thursday when he succumbed to illness in Bloemfontein.
Lekhoaba had been unwell for sometime.
As we mourn his death it is critical that we reflect on the immense contribution Lekhoaba made to the media and free speech in Lesotho.
While some could have seen him as a reckless maverick there is no taking away the fact that Lekhoaba was a fearless defender of the media’s right to free speech.
Lekhoaba rose to national prominence when he set up his private radio station Harvest FM in the run-up to the 2007 national elections.
Although the station’s focus was the spreading of the Christian message it also dealt with pertinent issues of the day affecting Basotho.
This did not go without notice from the government.
The government was last year forced to shut down the radio station for three months.
The Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) accused Harvest FM of violating the country’s broadcasting laws by airing defamatory and inaccurate programmes.
Lekhoaba denied that his station was in the wrong accusing the government of punishing his radio station for daring to challenge the status quo.
Observers say Harvest FM was a pro-opposition radio station.
Three months after its suspension Harvest FM was back on air with Lekhoaba vowing to continue his hard-line stance against the government.
Lekhoaba’s stance on issues brought him enemies as well as friends.
In May last year Lekhoaba was declared persona non grata and was deported from Lesotho to South Africa.
The government said Lekhoaba, who held a South African passport, was a South African national.
Under Lesotho’s laws it is an offence for any individual to hold dual citizenship.
The deportation order signed by Home Affairs Minister Lesao Lehohla said Lekhoaba had “rendered himself liable to deportation in terms of the Aliens Control Act of 1966.”
The minister said Lekhoaba “should be expelled from Lesotho and removed to the Republic of South Africa whence he came and where he is a citizen.”
The government said the deportation was in the interest of Lesotho.
In 2007, the High Court had ruled that Lekhoaba was a citizen of Lesotho because he was born here.
But the judgment was overturned on appeal by the Lesotho Court of Appeal which declared that Lekhoaba had not renounced his South African citizenship.
Soon after the Court of Appeal verdict Lekhoaba filed a new application in the High Court demanding he be granted Lesotho citizenship after he had rushed to renounce his South African citizenship.
The case was still pending in Lesotho’s courts of law.
Since his deportation last May, Lekhoaba was staying in Ladybrand, South Africa, some 15 kilometers away from the Lesotho border.
Lekhoaba continued to have brushes with the law as he defied his deportation order to enter the country.
His untimely death came when he was fighting in the courts to restore his citizenship. The gist of his legal challenge was that his deportation was political and was meant to silence him.
Lekhoaba was an active member of Deeper Life Ministries Church in Lesotho and South Africa.
Even in death the government appeared not to forgive him. He will be buried in Senekal, Free State, South Africa, on Saturday away from the country he so much loved.
He is survived by his wife ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba and two children.
Go well hero of heroes. Tsamaea hantle mohale oa bahale.