Explosive revelations implicating the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the controversial suspension of Gabz FM’s morning show host Reginald Richardson and his producer Keikantse Shumba have been made by the private radio station.
Gabz FM program manager Kenneth Moeng accuses Richardson of deliberately misleading his listeners that he had invited the BDP to participate in his show knowing that such invitation had not been extended to the party.
This is contained in a letter that Moeng wrote to Richardson notifying him to attend a disciplinary hearing.
“In breach of established principles of broadcasting, and despite previous warnings and advise to desist from being biased and malicious in your show, you deliberately claimed that you had called the BDP to participate in your show knowing full well that the invitation had not been extended,” states Moeng.
He also informed Richardson that “As advised in our letter of 2nd November 2016 Management received several complaints alleging an assortment of acts of misconduct levelled against you, and you were invited to react to or give any answer to the said allegations.”
He added that “ You have elected to not comment at least as may be deduced from the letter from your Attorneys, which effectively undermines the entire process, and you are hereby notified that you are required to attend a disciplinary Hearing relating to the several complaints and charges against you…”
The Gabz FM Management then resolved to charge Richardson and Shumba for misconduct. They include:
Presenting/Broadcasting misleading, falsified and malicious information to the detriment of the complainants and the Radio Station.
Failure to stay objective, ethical, fair and balanced in the conduct of interviews
Failure to avail required information to Management on request
Failure to abide by or observe standard company procedures and bringing the company into disrepute.
Moeng’s letter further states that “All the acts of misconduct alleged above are in contravention of the terms and conditions of your employments as contained in your contract of employment as read with the Botswana Press Council Code of Ethics and the general terms and condition of service in place at Gabz FM.”
In addition to the charges, Moeng also outlined “numerous instances of breach and the facts which support the charges” relating to Richardson’s alleged misconduct.
He is further accused of presenting/broadcasting misleading, falsified and malicious information to the detriment of the complainants and the radio station.
“Without any attempt to obtain the true and correct position, you publicly accused and condemned the law firm Moribame Mathews for failing to account in respect of the Abbie Ntshabele Trust Account, and still failed to afford the same law firm opportunity to participate in your show claiming that you have contacted their office and they declined to comment when you knew it was not true,” reads Moeng’s letter.
It further states that “On occasions you have been discourteous, rude and prejudicial to clients (callers) in your show who call in and appear to hold a different view from your preferred position and openly directing them to tune into other radio stations if they feel aggrieved by your position on issue, a conduct that you know is not acceptable at the, station as it undermines our effort to win the over the same clients for our listenership.”
The letter also accuses Richardson of failing, refusing, neglecting or ignoring the calls by Management for him to reveal the records as evidence of his communication with the complainants as he alleged that he had contacted them, “which requests were lawful instructions in line with policy and best practice in the industry to assist the company to properly address queries arising related to the said allegations of your biased and prejudicial conduct.”
According to Moeng “all the above incidents are testimony of a serious lack of due regard for the terms and conditions of employment, established policy and code of ethics and general norms of balanced journalism, and all present the company in bad light which is detrimental to business.”
In a letter he had written to Gabz FM Executive Lesego Komanyane demanding an apology from the radio station BDP’s Communications Chairman Thapelo Pabalinga had alleged that there was no attempt by the suspended pair to contact the party during the show.
“ I am extremely disappointed and deserve an apology from your station based on the untrue statement that was made on Breakfast with Reg this morning where Reginald Richardson said on his show that he tried to get a hold of representatives from BDP,” stated Pabalinga.
Pabalinga added that “He (Richardson) alleges that he tried to call the party Chairman, Party SG and Communications Chairman being myself. There has never been an attempt to contact me either through my phone nor (sic) email.”
Pabalinga believes that this was “deliberate to have the BDP’s voice absent. A day before the interview certain known BMD activists were advertising on Facebook that Hon Mangole would be broadcast live on breakfast with Reg on Monday 1st November 2016 at 720 am something that clearly shows that opposition parties were invited much earlier and notified of the interview whereas us at BDP we never get given the same opportunity.”
When asked if he takes responsibility for the suspension of the two private radio station employees, Pabalinga said “I don’t think they were suspended because of my complaint.”
“Generally I would be surprised if they were suspended on the basis of my complaint. My complaint is not a transgression that can warrant suspensions; but who knows the Gabz Fm management might look at it differently.”