Minister Faith Muthambi: Launch and annual General Meeting of the Eersterust Community Radio Station

The Eersterust Stakeholder Forum

The Community of Eersterust

Members of the Media

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Afternoon.

My presence here is a declaration of our readiness as a department to go all the way to ensure your communication needs are met.

Secondly, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma, made a commitment to this community when he visited you last year. Ours as the Department of Communications is to make sure that the President’s wishes of this community are fulfilled. Today we are here for the launch and the Annual General Meeting of the Eersterust Community Radio (Poort FM). This is the beginning of many good things to come for the Eersterust community.

Today’s event reminds me of how far we have come as South Africans. It is imperative to also talk about the historical events on how broadcasting has evolved: colonial administrations, which introduced broadcasting in Africa, manipulated and controlled many different forms of media and especially radio for largely political propaganda purposes.

In addition, between the 1960s and 1980s in West and Central Africa, coups favoured broadcasting stations as the first institutions to be taken over by coup plotters.

You will agree with me that broadcasting is very important in the development of our people, particularly in the African continent, as the majority of Africans get their information, education and entertainment primarily from radio. In this case, radio continues to play an important role in our underdeveloped communities as compared to other media.

Owning a Radio Station by communities such as Eersterust, was highly inconceivable. What comes to my mind was a broadcast that sought to undermine the banning of the ANC in 1960. The leaders of the oldest Liberation Movement, on the 26th of June 1963, Ntate Walter Sisulu and Dennis Goldberg invaded the South African airwaves and broadcast underground in what became the first liberation struggle broadcast entitled “An eye for an eye”.

This act by the leaders of the African National Congress sought to indicate that the utilisation of the airwaves in South Africa did not represent the masses of the country. We all know what eventually happened to these leaders during that time, they were arrested and charged for Treason.

In the 1970s, we saw alternative radio emerging in the form of Radio Freedom in some of the Southern African Countries. Radio Freedom became the voice of the ANC and its military wing Umkhonto Wesizwe. Radio Freedom transmitted from Angola, Lusaka, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Madagascar.

The masses of our people embraced this broadcast and risked arrest for tuning in to the “Radio Freedom”.In the 1980’s, we saw the baton being handed over to Community Radio Stations.

“The Bush Community Radio Station” in Cape Town was among the first Stations and two of its founding members were arrested for establishing this Radio broadcast. Today, we have about 200 Community Radio Stations across the country with over 8 million listeners, and the ANC led government’s effort is to ensure that there is at least one community media project in all municipalities to ensure diversity and plurality of views and opinions in the sector.

The recent democratisation processes since 1994, has brought about legislation and policies which have allowed, community media, the public broadcaster and even privately owned FM radio stations, to offer multiplicities of newsworthy views on the airwaves including giving the opposition a platform during elections as well as in ensuring that elections are conducted freely and fairly.

In addition, the Windhoek Charter on Broadcasting in Africa declared, “Community broadcasting is broadcasting which is for, by and about the community, and whose ownership and management is representative of the community, which pursues a social development agenda, and which is non-profit”.

Within communities, community media seek to foster debate about, reaching consensus on and build solidarity in promoting and protecting human rights and achieving sustainable development, including peace and reconciliation. Community media is therefore about both access to and dissemination of information.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency, (MDDA) are entities under the Ministry of Communications, they have been working hard to promote diversity and open up the media airwaves to other players.

There are, of course, other perennial challenges besides funding that continue to bedevil the Community Media, including access to the best and latest technologies, governance, administrative capacity, diversity, empowerment, core skills as well as training. As Minister in the ANC-led government, my Departments will continue to assist and develop community media, including the placement of government advertisement.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Beyond the microphones and transmitters, Community Radio Stations continue to have a substantial and meaningful impact on their host communities. We know how important this initiative is in addressing the scourge of drugs crippling our community. We know how our youth in Eersterust will start using the station to their benefit and channeling their efforts for the good and upliftment of this community.

South Africa’s mainstream broadcasters today recruit volunteers from the Community Radio Sector to strengthen their brands. Recently, at a function in Birchwood, while addressing a forum of about 100 Community Radio Managers, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the SABC stated his intention to establish a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between the sector and the SABC. This can only be a strong pillar to strengthen the sector.

Your station is soon going to be entrusted with the responsibility to inform, educate and entertain your listeners. The kind of information, education and entertainment you present to your listeners will be measured by the impact you create in this community.

This is an example of how Community Radio Stations have catalysed community engagement in the political process; informing people about their rights and choices in our democracy.

Community radio stations also promote a democratic culture by providing people with information on how to access Government services and in this way serves to empower members of the community to become more active and participative. We expect this station to give voice to the voiceless, women, the marginalised, and the poor, thus becoming an agent for the democratising process.

Gauteng has over 20 licensed radio stations with over one million listenership. Eersterust Community Radio will add voice to these and will definitely increase the listenership figures. We are aware that the airwaves have become a highly contested terrain as radio competes for the hearts and minds of the precious listeners.

Community radio adds a vital dimension to any media environment, but is particularly effective in a culturally diverse, multi-lingual area where the community is still coming to terms with atrocities of the past.

The Eersterust community radio station will be reaching people and places that national or regional media cannot using their own special phrases and languages. You have provided the listeners with a sense of ownership and opportunities for engagement that are rarely available on national broadcasters.

Community radio is often seen to represent the democratisation of communication; both contributing to the creation of democratic culture and empowering and enabling (often traditionally marginalised and excluded) communities to determine their own future paths and development.

As we celebrate our 22 Years of Freedom, there is indeed recognition that South Africa is much of a better place than it was before 1994.

Since 1994 we have made substantial progress in transforming the South African economy to benefit the majority, but serious challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality still remain with us.

Critical, though, is the central question of communication: do the affected communities fully understand Government plans to transform society? Do they know where to take their grievances to when there is manifest wrong-doings on the part of Government officials? Do they appreciate that illegal protests that lack direction may worsen rather than improve their conditions?

When community members have complaints they must not resort to any violent means and destroy properties as was experienced elsewhere in the country recently. The pure criminal elements involved divert genuine grievances raised by the community.

We must discourage destructive actions before they give rise to widespread violence. This does not only affect the community involved but also taints the image of the country for investment opportunities, which are sorely needed to ensure that we meet our triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

September is our Heritage Month, it must be remembered that this focus area talks of our strength when united. We need to understand our heritages and continue to promote our diverse cultures that make us a rainbow nation.

Media and especially Community Radio gives ordinary people a voice and also offers a forum for dialogue between communities and Government. Community Radio takes up this responsibility and ensures vulnerable groups in society are included and represented in their programming.

Poort Radio Station must be used as a tool for local development. It must continue to educate, sensitise and inform its local audiences about issues that affect their lives such as health, education, water, human rights, etc. In this way, you will remain relevant to the needs of the community that you serve.

The department embraces the community radio sector. We have the responsibility to communicate the country’s successes to our people. We have not only good grounds but a duty to do this in the interest of balanced reporting, bearing in mind the nature of attacks justly or unjustly launched on us as a community, country and continent.

As the sector, we have an opportunity to better inform community and public perceptions about our country.

In conclusion, we are fully committed to ensure that the sector is supported as we would like to see it grow and address the needs of our people.

I also need to warn you that for a Community radio to be able to play this important and significant role in community development, it must keep out of politics and religion and highlight pertinent community issues. Have your current affairs programmes and debate but do not use the station to fight political battles.

Thank you!!

Source: Government of South Africa.