Harvest FM owner forms political party

  • incurs the wrath of the LCA

Nthatuoa Koeshe

A PRIVATE radio station operator ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba is at loggerheads with the local licensing authority after she formed her own political party over the weekend.

Ms Lekhoaba, who established Harvest FM in May 2003, announced the formation of the United for Change (UC) party on Sunday.

Later that evening, she told a local radio station that she had stepped down as Harvest FM manager and would remain a shareholder as she embarked on her new political career.

But the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) is not amused at all. It says by forming a political party, Ms Lekhoaba had contravened its licensing regulations which forbid it from issuing radio licences to politicians.

The LCA’s communications officer, Tšiu Tšiu, this week told the Lesotho Times that the LCA was “shocked” to learn about the formation of a political party by Ms Lekhoaba. He said they would write to her to establish if the ownership of the radio station had changed hands as they “did not licence politicians to own radio stations”.

Mr Tšiu said Ms Lekhoaba did not even inform them about her plans to form a party and “we only heard this from a local radio station on Sunday”.

“She (Ms Lekhoaba) has publicly announced her move into politics yet she still has our radio licence.

“This is something we will look into to find out what is really happening. We do not licence politicians to own radio stations,” Mr Tšiu said, adding Ms Lekhoaba would have to choose between becoming a politician and being an owner of a radio station.

Ms Lekhoaba told the Lesotho Times that she would only comment on her new party after engaging the LCA.

“I heard the LCA is planning to write to me regarding my new political party and I am still waiting for them. There is no rule in the licensing regulations that states that I cannot start a political party but I will wait on the LCA letter to hear what they have to say,” Ms Lekhoaba said this week.

Lesotho is already littered with so many political parties and most of them have struggled to make an impact in a small country with a population of 2, 1 million people. It has been suggested that as part of the multi-sector reforms, Lesotho should increase the threshold for a party to be registered to 5000 members from the current 500 to curb the proliferation of political parties.

The UC will become the 37th political party in the country’s already congested political landscape should Ms Lekhoaba successfully register it with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

It will become the third female led party in the country after the Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL) and the ‘Mapuleng Montši-led Basotho Liberation Movement (BLM) which is also awaiting registration by the IEC.

The IEC has so far been unable to register new political parties and conduct other important business as it still has no commissioners after the government refused to renew the contracts of former commissioners, Mahapela Lehohla, ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Makase Nyaphisi after they expired in January 2019.

Labour and Employment minister Keketso Rantšo, who heads the RCL, is the only female leader of a registered political party in Lesotho.

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