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Mahlanya slams govt’s ‘oppressive and unilateral’ ban


Kananelo Boloetse

Renowned famo musician Lehlohonolo Maketsi, widely recognised by his stage name Mahlanya and a prominent figure within the Seakhi group, has expressed his strong disapproval of the government’s recent decision to ban their collective.

Despite denouncing the ban as unilateral, oppressive, and lamentable, Maketsi acknowledged the alleged lack of viable avenues to challenge this action.

In an exclusive phone interview from South Africa, he told Newsday: “The government is a big and powerful institution that Seakhi cannot go toe-to-toe with. We will just wait to see what will eventually happen to the government’s ban on our group.”

The government, through a legal notice published on Friday, May 10, declared Seakhi and 11 other organisations unlawful, accusing them of being involved in or promoting subversive activities.

The notice, titled ‘Internal Security (Declaration of Unlawful Organisation) Notice, 2024,’ was issued by the Minister of Local Government, Chieftainship, Home Affairs, and Police, Lebona Lephema, under section 10 of the Internal Security General Act 1984.

The Act allows the minister to declare any organisation unlawful if it is believed to be involved in subversive activity.

Subversive activities, according to the statute, include supporting, propagating, or advocating any act prejudicial to public order, the security of Lesotho, or the administration of justice, as well as inciting violence or crime.

Mahlanya emphasised that the government’s decision to label the groups as unlawful was inherently unjust, particularly due to the absence of a fair hearing prior to the decision.

He underscored the profound impact this unilateral action would have on their fundamental human rights.

“There is nothing we can do now, but I want to emphasise that the decision is unjust and oppressive,” he asserted. “Given the government’s considerable power, challenging it directly is not feasible, yet their decision remains unjust,” he added.

In legal terminology, audi alteram partem, which translates to “hear the other side” or “no man should be condemned unheard,” embodies a fundamental principle of fair and just jurisprudence.

This principle, rooted in both secular and religious laws, dictates that before any order is issued against an individual, they must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to present their case and be heard.

Essentially, before any action is taken, the affected party must receive adequate notice of the proposed action and be given an opportunity to provide their explanation or defense.

This principle encompasses two crucial elements: notice and hearing.

Failure to adhere to this principle undermines the right to a fair hearing. Any order issued without giving the affected party an opportunity to be heard is typically considered contrary to the principles of natural justice and is deemed void from the outset.

This principle of fair hearing, if what Maketsi said is anything to go by, was ignored in this instance, making the decision fundamentally unjust.

Maketsi acknowledged that their location in South Africa might have contributed to the lack of a hearing. “Maybe we were not afforded a hearing because we are based in South Africa; we are not there at home,” he said.

When asked about the leadership of Seakhi, Maketsi stated: “In Seakhi, we are all equal. Many people have asked this question, and I have always told them that unlike in other groups, in Seakhi, we do not have a leader. We are all equal.”

He added: “A person like Ntate Lekase (Bereng Majoro) and others, we respect them because they are our elders within the group, not leaders.”

Famo artists are known for diss-track-type lyrics, which have been linked to hundreds of murders.

Maketsi admitted that while they used to engage in diss tracks, their lyrics have recently changed. “Our lyrics have changed a lot in recent days. There are no insults; we are just singing, and it is very unfortunate that the ban comes at a time when we say there has been a lot of improvement in our lyrics,” he said.

Many Basotho men, who are predominantly fervent fans of famo music, have opted to leave Lesotho and venture into the vast network of abandoned mining tunnels scattered across the South African landscape.

Known locally as ‘Zama-Zamas’ in South Africa and as ‘Makhomosha’ in Lesotho, particularly in the Mafeteng district, these individuals engage in illegal mining activities, descending into disused and neglected mining shafts in search of precious minerals such as gold and chrome ore as a means of livelihood.

These illegal miners often spend months or even years underground, facing grave risks to their safety and well-being.

Tragically, some never resurface, falling victim to accidents or violent altercations with rival miners.

Within the famo music context, it is reported that certain illegal miners are associated with Mahlanya’s group, Seakhi, while others are linked to different famo groups.

However, Mahlanya vehemently denied any affiliation between these miners and the Seakhi group.

“I recently discussed with Khopolo this issue that there are individuals who outwardly resemble us, wearing the same attire and blankets, but engage in activities that neither I nor Seakhi endorse or condone,” he explained.

“We agreed that Seakhi should distance itself from these individuals who falsely associate with us while committing crimes.”

“For us, famo music is a legitimate means of earning a livelihood. Our aim is to provide for our families, not to engage in criminal activities. However, with the government’s unjust declaration, our primary source of income has been obstructed,” he lamented.

“Fortunately, like most Basotho men, I also have livestock, which provides an alternative source of income. I will ensure that my family has sustenance through this means. Nonetheless, I reiterate that the government’s actions are unjust,” he added.

Reflecting on his education at St. John’s High School in Mafeteng, Mahlanya expressed regret over dropping out.

“If I had completed my studies, I could have been in government by now, making informed decisions for the benefit of all citizens,” he remarked.

“But we refused to go to school, and that is why we are where we are today. For those who could not complete high school due to circumstances beyond their control, it is more painful seeing those in government today making these oppressive decisions,” he said.

Following the government’s declaration, the then Acting Police Commissioner, Dr. Mahlape Morai, announced during a press briefing on May 21 that the media was barred from publishing or broadcasting issues related to banned famo groups.

Morai warned of punitive measures against media outlets or reporters covering famo-related activities, stating that promoting these groups was illegal.

These remarks drew sharp criticism from the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho Chapter and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

MISA Lesotho urged all media houses “to resist this blatant intimidation and to continue their crucial work of providing unbiased and comprehensive news coverage,” a commitment Newsday upholds.

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