MOVEMENT for Economic Change (MEC) leader Selibe Mochoboroane has promised his government will prioritise funding for science and technology, saying they are key drivers of economy growth.
Mr Mochoboroane said this while addressing a campaign rally that was attended by at least 500 predominantly young people in Teyateyaneng.
The rally was held to drum up support for MEC which will be participating in national elections on 3 June for the first time since its formation in January.
The elections were announced by King Letsie III in the wake of the no confidence vote by the opposition which toppled the seven parties’ coalition government led by Democratic Congress (DC) leader Pakalitha Mosisili.
And Mr Mochoboroane, a former Small Business Development Minister under the outgoing regime, said information technology (IT) held the key to resuscitating the country’s ailing economy.
“MEC is founded on three pillars one of which is growing the economy of the country,” Mr Mochoboroane said.
“Our economy will not grow at the rate we need it to if we continue lagging behind in technological advancement.
“So, science and technology are highly regarded by MEC in helping economic growth.”
He said the country could only attain the appropriate growth through the provision of financial support for research initiatives at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) including those centering on the production of quality potato seeds and development of local yoghurt brands.
“If the university has discovered a way of producing quality potato seeds, they need financial support so that those seeds can be produced in bulk so that even neighbouring countries like South Africa will import from us. The seeds should also be planted in our fields so that we are able to export potatoes, thereby creating jobs for our people.
“We are saying we should invest more in productive technology so that we can create many jobs for the people.
“Staying with innovative technologies, we are also aware that the university is producing yogurt after completing a research through their agriculture faculty. This means their graduates have the opportunity to rear dairy cows and go on to produce yoghurt,” he said, adding they would support and encourage such projects upon achieving power.
He said his government would also ensure there was adequate broadband infrastructure which was necessary for broad access to the internet for businesses, education, health and government operations.
Mr Mochoboroane also promised to superintend the crafting of a clear media policy that would define government’s relations with the media, saying this had been put off for far too long.
“When there are clear media laws in the country, there won’t be any closing down of a state owned newspaper for covering an MEC rally.”
“A draft had already been drawn up at the time when I was Communications Minister, but it was discovered that it needed to be refreshed before being passed by cabinet and parliament.”
He said MEC would also ensure that the Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) operated as an independent entity and not as a state organ.
“This is so that national television and radio station can broadcast free of censure. We need to approve that policy because journalists need to publish freely. And we cannot not deny that media freedom goes together with responsible reporting.
“It is through that policy that we will be able to compel the journalist to conduct thorough research involving two sides on any matter before publishing it.
“We also have to protect the journalists when they have published factual information in order to ensure they are not harassed as a result.”
His remarks came against the background of government’s recent decision to suspend publication of the state-owned newspaper, Lentsoe la Basotho, citing ongoing investigations into its operations.
The Communications ministry’s outgoing Principal Secretary, Tšeliso Khomari said the suspension which was with effect from 28 April 2017, was prompted by the “biased reportage” of the newspaper against the seven-party coalition government.
Last Friday, People’s Choice (PC) FM had to temporarily shut down after government’s decision to repossess the equipment it had lent the station.
The station subsequently acquired its own equipment on the same day but it was only allowed back on air on Monday after negotiations between management and officials from Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology.
And Mr Mochoboroane said that shutting down media houses and social media was not the way to go.
“I was listening to government concerns and its contemplation to shut down Facebook. The important thing is not to shut it down but to regulate it.
“If social media is being misused, we should device the means to regulate its usage and not shut it down. One way to do that could be through sim card registration to help track abusers,” he said.
Mr Mochoboroane held various ministerial portfolios, the last being at the Small Business Development ministry before being fired by Prime Minister Mosisili in February.
This followed his decision to ditch the Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to lead MEC.
Mr Mochoboroane also a former LCD secretary-general jumped ship in February after being provisionally suspended from the party by Mr Metsing for allegedly sabotaging the governing coalition party to prop up the MEC.