The presenter of the Btv's Matho-a-Phage, Joshua Ntopolelang has quit the programme because of interference by the government and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
He withdrew his services yesterday, a day after an episode that was supposed to be aired on Sunday's Btv Matho-a-Phage programme was trashed because it allegedly favoured opposition views.
Information reaching Mmegi reveal that the programme was not aired because it was understood to be biased towards the opposition and did not protect the BDP representative.
Ntopolelang explained yesterday that he has decided to withdraw his services from presenting the programme because the level of interference was inconsistent with what he believes.
"These are just some of the things that are making it difficult for presenters to do their job as you will never be sure of what you are expected to do and whether you are asking the right questions. I quit this morning (yesterday)," Ntopolelang said adding that he will continue to work for the station and serve in other capacities save for anchoring the programme.
The programme he was supposed to present last Sunday featured Gaborone Central MP Dumelang Saleshando of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Chairperson of Southern District Council Kentse Rammidi of the BDP and Ndulamo Antony Morima as a voter. The topic of discussion was hefty packages of cabinet ministers and MPs. Instead of showing the episode that was recorded on Thursday, Btv aired a programme that has been repeated many times discussing efforts to lure investors to Botswana.
According to Morima, he learnt that Btv received a directive from the Office of the President (OP) that the recording should not go ahead. He said that he was told yesterday that the message did not get on to the presenter who went ahead and recorded only for the finished package to be trashed. "We wasted our time there trying to discuss things that we thought are in the interest of the public only to be surprised when it was not aired on Sunday. It is only that the OP did not want these things to be discussed in public," Morima said. He explained that his argument on the programme was that the ministers' packages were just too high considering the country's crumbling economy and the low standards of living by the majority of the citizens.
"Why would you have a person with a huge basic salary given other allowances like just sitting in a meeting? In my opinion, that money spent on those people should be used to assist people who are living in abject poverty or subsidise the high prices of fuel," he said. He asserted that it is only greedy people who want to have everything for themselves.
When contacted for comment, Saleshando said that he was not given any reason why the programme was not aired. He said that his argument on the programme was that the hefty packages reported in the newspapers were not absolute figures that all MPs get. "There are benefits enjoyed by the ministers only with mandates and not any MP. It was nothing controversial but just the usual that we know," Saleshando said.
Rammidi said that he did not notice any unfair questions levelled against him nor did he feel that he was being victimised. "I just answered the questions that were asked and it was just like all the sessions that I have been called to give my input. It was not biased in any way but was just the same grilling that these guys always do to the BDP," Rammidi said.
But the director of broadcasting services, Habuji Sosome refuted the allegations of interference and said that the programme was not aired because the gatekeepers were not happy with the end result. "It had mistakes that were too hard to ignore and was not fit for airing. It was an internal decision that had nothing to do with any directive. In fact, I haven't seen the directive that you are talking about," Sosome said.
Sometime last year, another programme that featured Gaborone West legislator, minister Margaret Nasha and Dumelang Saleshando was re-recorded apparently after minister Nasha had complained to management that the initial recording was harsh on her.