MASERU — What a week it has been for the Lesotho Times.
It was always going to be a hectic week especially after breaking the story on how a company owned by the Nthane Brothers had been given a M15 million loan by the government after failing to finish the construction of the Mantsonyane to Thaba-Tseka Road.
The phone started ringing on Friday morning, a day after the story was published.
A representative of the Nthane Brothers said he wanted to give their “side of the story” so we dispatched one of our reporters expecting a factual rebuttal of our story.
The only problem, the representative said, was although the Nthane Brothers was cited 27 times in the article it was not the company that signed the contract with the government.
When our reporter asked for the name of the company that signed the contract the representative told him that it was his job to find out.
The company is the Lesotho Consolidated Construction Company (LCCC), a subsidiary wholly owned by the Nthane Brothers.
“We want a retraction and the names of your sources,” the representative demanded.
Our reporter rejected the demand outright for that would have meant him revealing his sources — a cardinal sin in journalism.
Unable to get the names he so badly wanted the representative called the Lesotho Times editors for a meeting at Maseru Sun Hotel.
The venue was later shifted to Lesotho Sun Hotel.
On arrival at the hotel the editors were instead asked to proceed to a private room where the demand for sources and a retraction of the story were repeated, this time in very strong language.
The deal on the table was that if the editors revealed their sources the newspaper would not be sued.
It was flatly rejected for there is no way this paper will reveal its sources.
The confidentiality of sources is non-negotiable.
The Lesotho Times has since engaged its lawyers to speak to legal representatives of the Nthane Brothers to give them a right to respond.
We will give them that platform in the spirit of fairness and because we believe they have a right to tell their side of the story.
However, we think it is improper to demand to know our sources.
In journalism the confidentiality of sources is sacrosanct.
In the meantime the story continues to unravel.
We are also surprised that the Nthane Brothers representatives already had a letter from Lebohang Phooko, the principal secretary in ministry of public works, which was addressed to our reporter.
The letter was a response to a list of questions that we had forwarded to Phooko on Wednesday night.
Why the letter was handed to the Nthane Brothers’ representatives even before it reached us boggles the mind.