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Preserve famo music – root out criminal elements, not the culture


The recent government decision to ban the Seakhi group, along with eleven other organisations, marks a troubling moment for Lesotho. Renowned famo musician Lehlohonolo Maketsi, known as Mahlanya, has decried this move as unilateral and oppressive.

While there are legitimate concerns about criminal activities linked to some individuals within the famo music scene, the solution lies not in eradicating this unique cultural expression but in addressing the criminal elements head-on.

Famo music is a vibrant and integral part of Basotho culture. It reflects the social realities, struggles, and aspirations of the people. By categorically banning groups like Seakhi, the government risks destroying a rich cultural heritage.

Also, this drastic decision undermines the principle of “audi alteram partem” – the right to a fair hearing – a cornerstone of just and fair governance. The absence of a proper hearing before such a drastic measure is fundamentally unjust and an affront to natural justice if we are being honest.

No one is suggesting that the government should stand idly by while crime associated with certain elements in the famo music community escalates. On the contrary, it is imperative that criminal activities be addressed decisively.

However, it is equally crucial that the government’s approach is reasonable and targeted. The blanket ban on famo groups is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The government must differentiate between those who use famo music as a means of artistic expression and livelihood and those who exploit it for criminal purposes. The focus should be on rooting out the criminal elements, not stifling the entire genre. This requires nuanced, targeted actions and collaboration with community leaders such as chief and local councillors, artists, and law enforcement.

Moreover, famo music has been a legitimate source of income for many Basotho. With the government’s unjust ban, numerous artists and their families face financial uncertainty. This sweeping action could push more individuals towards illicit activities out of sheer necessity, exacerbating the very problem it aims to solve.

The decision to ban Seakhi and other groups, and the subsequent media blackout on famo-related activities, also raises significant concerns about freedom of expression. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho Chapter and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have rightly criticised this move.

Media houses must resist intimidation, as this publication is doing, and continue to provide comprehensive news coverage, ensuring that the public remains informed and engaged.

The government should not undermine the cultural and economic lifelines that famo music provides. Instead, it should support and nurture this unique art form while simultaneously implementing measures to curb associated criminal activities. This balanced approach would preserve Lesotho’s cultural heritage and promote a safer, more just society.

It is time for the government to reconsider its stance and adopt a more reasonable and effective strategy. By working with famo musicians, community leaders, and law enforcement, it can address the root causes of crime without killing the spirit of famo music.

Our cultural heritage and the livelihoods of many depend on it.

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