LCS speaks out on radio station saga

Commissioner of Correctional Services ’Matefo Makhalemele
Commissioner of Correctional Services ’Matefo Makhalemele

Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) has denied its members who barged into Thahakhube (TK) FM studios during a live broadcast on Wednesday last week were armed.

Addressing a press conference in Maseru this week, LCS Commissioner ’Matefo Makhalemele said contrary to the station’s news department Assistant Manager Moseketsi Nkuebe’s claims, the three officers were not armed.

Ms Nkuebe had told the Lesotho Times last week the LCS officers stormed into the studio during a current affairs show in which LCS Staff Association Secretary-General Lebonajoang Ramohalali was talking about the recently-enacted Lesotho Correctional Services Act (2016).

During the programme, titled Morning Parliament, Mr Ramohalali said the new law only focused on the offences and punishments for staff and not on their welfare.

However, she said the three officers entered the studio and demanded to know why the station had afforded Mr Ramohalali an opportunity to talk about the new law without telling the LCS they would discuss the issue on the programme.

Ms Nkuebe said she felt “intimidated” by the intrusion by the officers, “Two of them were not in uniform, while the third one was in full LCS uniform,” she said.

“One of them called me to where he was by wagging his finger. At the time, we were still live since the microphones were still on. I was very scared and didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless.

“I tried to explain that I would give them an opportunity to set the record straight if they felt aggrieved. However, they shouted ‘we want to set the record straight now!’ and I gave one of them a seat and the microphone to state their point of view.”

However, Commissioner Makhalemele said the officers, two of whom were her guards and the other LCS Public Relations Officer Assistant Superintendent Neo Mopeli, were not armed.

“It is not true that they were armed. I was told what happened,” she said.

“The only person who was mandated to enter the radio station was the public relations officer of the LCS. The other two only accompanied him because they provided transport.”

Commissioner Makhalemele also denied the officers intentionally interrupted the radio programe: “I was told there was no one at the reception. That’s why they went to the studio to speak to the presenter. If they had found someone at the reception, they would have left the message they wanted to convey and left.”

The LCS chief said the media should engage the correctional institution’s management as a matter of course instead of Mr Ramohalali who was suspended. Mr Ramohalali was suspended from the LCS in January this year for speaking to the media without authorisation.

“Let’s make it a point that each time you talk about this institution, you talk to the management,” said Commissioner Makhalemele.

“This is not to say we will always agree, but the expectation is for all media practitioners to be ethical.”

She said while some people were critical of the Lesotho Correctional Services Act (2016), the media should handle the issue with care.

“There are issues we can openly talk about and those we can’t, because we are an institution that deals with security issues. It is therefore very vital for our officers to talk to the media after being given the authorisation. If any officer chooses to talk to the media without such authorisation, we take them to task.”

Meanwhile, the LCS and TK-FM yesterday promised to issue a joint statement on the issue, but later opted to issue it today.

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