MASERU — The Democratic Congress (DC) party has demanded that Communications Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi give former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili an opportunity on state media to respond to the minister.
The DC is also demanding that Mokhosi reconsider the government’s stance that state media refrain from covering the party’s rallies.
In a letter dated July 19 addressed to Mokhosi, signed by DC secretary general Ralechate ’Mokose and seen by the Lesotho Times, the former ruling party demands that Mokhosi allow Mosisili to issue a response on state media.
The letter was received by one Palesa Moea and signed for by ’Masenate Sekoala at Mokhosi’s office on July 19.
According to the DC, Section 14 (4) of the Constitution of Lesotho requires that “any person who feels aggrieved by statements or ideas disseminated to the public in general by a medium of communication has the right to reply or to require a correction to be made using the same medium, under such conditions as the law may establish”.
“On behalf of the leader of the DC and the party itself, I humbly request that an opportunity for the DC leader to reply,” ’Mokose says.
“I will appreciate if you can afford our leader the right to reply (as opposed to correction) as stated above and if you could reconsider your decision to prohibit your staff from covering DC because this is state media.”
“I am particularly aware that you still continue to cover other political parties in Lesotho. Your actions amount to discrimination, which our constitution does not allow.”
Mosisili, who is also former prime minister, on July 1, told a DC rally in the Mabote constituency that his party won the May 26 election but failed to form government because it did not garner the constitutionally required 61 seats for simple majority.
Mosisili added that he had relinquished power to incumbent Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s coalition government to “protect democracy and avert a bloodbath”.
Mosisili also took a swipe at the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) tripartite, for cobbling their numbers to “gang up against one man”.
However, on July 5 Mokhosi, hit back at Mosisili on national TV accusing the former premier of inciting confusion with his speech.
Mokhosi, speaking in his capacity as government spokesperson, said Mosisili misled his followers in the Mabote constituency when he said the DC won the election because “it had 48 seats out of a 120-member parliament”.
“The government calls on the DC leader to immediately stop confusing the public with untrue statements.
“The DC leader, Honourable Pakalitha Mosisili, should please cease making statements that are meant to confuse the people,” Mokhosi said.
Last week Public Works Minister Keketso Rantšo declared at a press conference that the government had decided to ban coverage of the DC “for as long as Mosisili continues to incite violence by saying he won election”.
Rantšo said state media would only cover DC rallies “when the DC starts talking about constructive issues”.
But ’Mokose in the letter said Mokhosi should reconsider his decision to impose a state media ban on the DC’s coverage.
“I am therefore reliably informed that on July or thereabout, following your statement referred to above, you instructed your staff on both Radio Lesotho and LTV to refrain from covering DC in all respects,” ’Mokose says.
“Honourable Minister, I humbly request that if this is true, you reconsider your decision. In this regard, I wish to refer you to section 14(1) of the constitution of Lesotho which entitles every citizen to enjoy the right to freedom of expression and freedom to communicate ideas and information to the public.”
Section 14(1) cites that “every person shall be entitled to, and (except with his own consent) shall not be hindered in his enjoyment of, freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to public
generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence”.
’Mokose yesterday confirmed writing the letter to Mokhosi adding that he expected the communications minister to “comply with the constitution”.
“We expect that as a minister and by extension an instrumental part of governance, he understands the constitution well. It’s his responsibility to abide by it,” ’Mokose said.
“I cannot even in my wildest dreams, imagine Minister Mokhosi turning a blind eye on an issue of this magnitude, but more especially his responsibilities.”
Several attempts by this paper to solicit a response from Mokhosi hit a brick wall as his mobile number was not available.