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NGOs fight over EU funding



MASERU – A women’s rights organisation, She-Hive, says it is on the verge of collapse after it failed to access part of its funding from donors.

Its founder, ’Mamakhethe Phomane, told a press conference yesterday that the organisation can no longer afford to pay its office rent and salaries.

“We are indebted to our employees and the landlord for more than 12 months,” Phomane said.

“We have already been instructed by the office of the Labour Commissioner to pay the employees,” she said.

Phomane said their landlord had now served her organisation with a notice of eviction adding that they could also lose their equipment.

She said their current challenges came after they fell out with Sesotho Media and Development, their partner in a M17 million project funded by the European Union.

In 2021 the two organisations agreed to work together, Sesotho Media becoming the lead applicant while She-Hive Association assumed the role of co-applicant.

Under the deal, the two organisation pledged to focus on the promotion and respect for human rights by the Lesotho police.

The European Union was the contracting authority.

However, relations between the two organisations turned sour after they quarrelled over a project vehicle that Phomane said would be registered as an asset in the books of She-Hive Association.

Phomane said Sesotho Media was not happy with that proposal and refused to hand over the vehicle only offering the vehicle when they wanted to use it.

“To this day, this matter remains unresolved,” she said.

She said Sesotho Media wrote an email to She-Hive instructing it to dismiss one of the employees, giving them an ultimatum that if she was not dismissed the next disbursement would not include her salary.

She said the European Union cautioned Sesotho Media against interference in labour-related matters during a meeting.

She said Sesotho Media refused to release funds to She-Hive.

She said in 2021, only two disbursements were done with an explanation that “we were not implementing any project activities”.

“This non-disbursement of funds remains part of our disputes until this day,” she said.

She said Sesotho Media superimposed a document titled “Compliance Agreement,” where they told She-Hive that if the document was not signed, they would not disburse any funds.

She said the compliance agreement was signed under duress “yet still no funds were disbursed for the period in question”.

She-Hive then approached the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (LCN) to mediate in the dispute but Sesotho Media refused to agree to any of the terms.

The two were later invited by the European Union for talks. She said Sesotho Media was again cautioned about violating labour matters.

She said in January they were informed by the EU that Sesotho Media was being appointed as the sole implementer of the project.

On March 27, Sesotho Media then informed She-Hive that it was terminating the contract.

“This letter makes no mention of the grounds of termination,” she said.

“We find the passive stance by the EU-Delegation very disappointing, the EU as the contracting authority has looked away in the face of flagrant abuse of power and violation of human rights in a project funded by the EU,” she said.

The EU could not be reached for comment last night while Sesotho Media had not responded to questions at the time of going to print.

She-Hive helps victims of gender-based violence while Sesotho Media and Development uses film to address social and health issues at the community level.

Tholoana Lesenya

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