MASERU — The fight for the control of PC FM has intensified. Last week the Lesotho Times (LT) revealed that Mohau Thakaso who claims to be the major shareholder of the station had written to the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) requesting that they cancel the licence until he had regained control of the radio station. He alleges that the management was violating the provisions of the licence. He has also alleged fraud at the station. This week we spoke to PC FM managing director Motlatsi Majara about the fights. Below are excerpts from the interview. Please note that Thakaso turned down a request for an interview because he said it might jeopardise his case against PC FM management.
LT: What is really the problem? We have just recently carried a story in the Lesotho Times in which Mohau Thakaso is now pushing for the suspension of PC FM’s licence because he claims that you and ‘Mamohato Qhobela are running it illegally. Where do these allegations emanate from?
Majara: Let’s just start from the inception of the radio station in 1998. Perhaps I could go back to as far back as 1996 at the registration of the station. Four Basotho men came together. I would also want to mention, though it sounds a bit selfish, that the idea of a radio station was mine in its entirety. The question of whose idea it was is important because it has become a bone of contention today. It should not have been. I never thought it would be. It does become an issue today when bad blood comes forth. The idea of a radio station was mine. I had this idea because from far back before 1996 I had worked in a number of broadcasting areas including our national broadcaster (Lesotho National Broadcasting Service).
LT: Then what did you do with this idea. Did you call other guys to join you?
Majara: I worked through the idea and got the name for the radio station. I had anticipated calling it People’s Choice. The idea is that in business you always want to call your business a simple name that can be identified by ordinary folk.
LT: So when you were brainstorming all these ideas you were still alone.
Majara: Absolutely. I was alone in the project.
LT: When did the new faces come in?
Majara: Just around 1996. One day I got a visit from three gentlemen. They were Mathibeli Moleko, Teboho Mathae and Mohau Thakaso. They came forth to basically ask for that working relationship to form a company. We agreed that we would form a company that had 2 000 shares distributed equally amongst us at 500 each.
LT: Obviously these shares had value. Who was putting what in order to get them? The company had been registered but it needed capital. I want to know who contributed what?
Majara: That is exactly the point. When we came forth the company was undercapitalised. We did not have any money except for the R500 that each had contributed towards the registration of the company.
LT: You mean even those three gentlemen did not have anything?
Majara: Yes, they did not have any.
LT: Why did you decide to team up with them? What were they bringing in? Why were you joining forces with people who were not bringing capital into the project?
Majara: It’s a very valid question but the point is that we had an idea. The idea, the same kind of thinking and common goal would have more value than the money.
LT: What happened next?
Majara: I was given the mandate by all of us to proceed and do everything in our power to start the radio station. To do anything in our power to make sure that the project works and I did that.
LT: What exactly did you do?
Majara: I took ordinary domestic equipment like CD players, tape recorders and turntables. Most of these were coming from my house. This equipment included anything that could make a sound that would be put through a mixer. We borrowed a mixer from one guy who was indeed very instrumental and we still want to thank him. This mixer was to bring together everything that would be put through a Studio Transmitter Link. Through negotiations we had borrowed a Studio Transmitter Link from the government of Lesotho. This links the radio and the transmitter.
LT: Where were the other partners while you were doing this? I mean while you were taking equipment from your home and putting it together for the station, what were the others contributing?
Majara: They contributed bits and pieces like fans, desks, chairs and transportation of staff. There is also something important that you have to know. All of my colleagues had work while I was working on the station 24 hours. Thakaso was in the petroleum business, Mathae was in the insurance business while Moleko was in his private practise of accountancy.
LT: For the radio to start you needed a licence. Who got the licence? Thakaso says the licence was issued to him and not the company.
Majara: That is not so. There is no way a company can be formed and then the licence is issued to an individual. It does not make sense. No licensing institution would do such a thing. How can that happen? I don’t want to remark any further than that but it does not make sense. The company was there and the license was issued in the name of People’s Choice Broadcasting Studios (Pty) Ltd.
LT: But he claims that the license was issued to him.
Majara: Whatever claim he makes should be refuted but just make a simple fact here. We also had a company called People’s Choice Holding through which we applied for a television licence. We made a decision that Thakaso should take care of the television side of things. This was because we were having a number of people from South Africa who wanted to invest in the radio and TV as well. The radio licence was never issued in the name of Thakaso. We had a plethora of people who wanted to invest. One of those who put in a substantial amount of money was Mr Velgemoed who put in R46 000 for us to purchase a transmitter to complete the line for us to start broadcasting. He is a South African. Velgemoed was a friend of Thakaso.
LT: Was this money in the form of a loan or he was getting shares in the company?
Majara: The purpose of the R46 000 was for us to purchase a one kilowatt transmitter and we did that. But there is a little catch. How did the R46 000 come to us? The R46 000 was sent from Gauteng after Velgemoed had visited us here through Thakaso’s initiative. He undertook to send the money with which we were expected to purchase the transmitter. That money was sent in through Thakaso’s account at Nedbank.
LT: Did the company not have an account by then?
Majara: I don’t think we did. We had barely started. We did not even have a cent to put into an account.
LT: So what was your agreement with Velgemoed?
Majara: Either of the two. That the money was going to be paid back or we were going to sit down and offer him some shareholding.
LT: Which of the two options did you take?
Majara: We didn’t take any of those up to now. None of those has taken effect. He was not offered any shareholding. The talks broke down and the money has not been paid back. I think we are going to leave an important detail here. The money was sent through Thakaso. Transmitters are made in Cape Town. Thakaso facilitated for the money to be transferred from his account to the transmitter people. But that was done on behalf of PC FM.
LT: That brings us to the fallout. At what point was there a fallout?
Majara: Mr Thakaso came forth and said that he had been to Gauteng and met with Velgemoed. He claims that the meeting discussed that he (Thakaso) would pay back the R46 000 owed to Velgemoed. He said he had paid Velgemoed. He said they also agreed that he would then take the shares that Velgemoed would have been offered in lieu of the money. I am not sure whether he indeed paid Velgemoed.
LT: Did you agree?
Majara: Absolutely not. It was not agreed because he was talking about shareholding. We refused because there had been no shareholding offered to Velgemoed.
LT: Did he show any proof that he had paid Velgemoed?
Majara: Absolutely not. At one meeting we had agreed that we will each come up with statements of contribution to show what each had contributed. Mr Thakaso claimed the R46 000 and transmitter. How can you claim the shares and the transmitter at the same time?
LT: At what point did these statements of contribution become a requirement?
Majara: They were required by Samdef because they had an interest in putting in some money towards the development of PC FM.
LT: But there were more investors interested in the station.
Majara: It had been going on for some time. Khaya FM wanted to invest. There was also UAM and TransAfrica radio. But for some reason UAM, for example, would come and we would be told that Thakaso had already spoken to them.
LT: Who really owns this station?
Majara: Thakaso owns 25 percent and I have 25 percent. Wrenjos owns 40 percent and the remaining 10 percent is owned by staff led by the station manager ‘Mamohato Qhobela.
LT: Did the issue of new investors trigger the fight?
Majara: As soon as there is milk and honey the trouble starts. The fights were almost to the extent that they (potential investors) would be called. Thakaso would fight and say that he is the one who initiated the visit by people from Gauteng (investors). Does that make you a better shareholder? Unfortunately the investors did not come.
LT: Where did fraud allegations regarding shares emanate from?
Majara: There is never a time we will talk of a fraudulent transaction in the sale of shares. You would rather be talking about validity. Moleko and Mathae followed proper procedure when they sold their shares. Thakaso offered to buy the shares.
LT: Did he buy the shares?
Majara: He did not buy the shares. He made the offer to Moleko but it never materialised. The offer to Mathae did not go through as well. Moleko opted to sell his shares to an outside person. A representative from a company called Wrenjos bought the shares. Mathae sold 15 percent of his shares to Wrenjos and the other 10 percent to staff.
LT: When did the fight become dirty?
Majara: The major battle started in 2005. Just before that Samdef was not able to work with us. No one would. They would do a due diligence and then pull out. Samdef then felt that for now they would advance some money for us to buy things like printers. But for them to do that they needed a representative in Lesotho. They chose Thabo Mpaka. We then made a resolution that transactions from the account will be signed for by Mpaka and me as the MD. But that was to come back and give us problems because Thakaso later said he had not been part of the resolution.
LT: But was he there?
Majara: He was there but he went to court and said he did not know Mpaka. One thing that is interesting is that at one time he had actually cashed a cheque that had been signed by Mpaka and me. He went to court and he lost.
LT: And the battles continued.
Majara: Yes, we started getting calls from the fraud department. We were being asked about Thakaso’s shareholding. I responded saying police had no business dealing with shareholding issues.
LT: Relations between you and Thakaso are very strained. Is it out of hatred?
Majara: Part of the fight is fuelled by you (Lesotho Times). I am an open minded person. If tomorrow we would get a manager to run this station beyond what I have done, I would give that person an opportunity. When you read through you would see that Thakaso is saying remove Majara and put me in control. Thakaso is looking for my job. He feels annoyed every time he sees me running PC. I admit that I might not be the best. It’s pure hatred. He cannot claim that he is a better leader than me.
LT: Have you heard from the LCA regarding the letter that Thakaso wrote requesting that the licence be cancelled until he has control of the station?
Majara: We have not. I don’t think we will hear anything.
LT: Thakaso says you sold your shares. Is that true?
Majara: I ceded my shares to sort out my personal issues but I have since reversed that transaction. I have my shares. The shares did not automatically go to him because I had ceded them. I remain with 25 percent.
LT: Do you regret inviting other people into the company?
Majara: I don’t regret. We have built a monumental castle which we feel good about. He (Thakaso) does not recognise me as a shareholder and the MD. It’s painful. He recognises that I ceded my shares but does not recognise the people who approved the process.
LT: The biggest loser in the whole battle seems to be the station. Surely if it had found investors it would be much bigger.
Majara: Indeed this station would have grown. We would have been above the clouds if we had got the investor.