WHILE the oldest community radio station in the country, Bush Radio, faces closure due to lack of funds, the Department of Communications has reportedly let over R24 million ring-fenced for community radio to remain unspent.
Last week the Sunday Argus reported that the as-yet-unreleased Auditor General’s report on the department’s management found that only R820 000 out of R25 million in the 2010/2011 budget set aside “to supply community radio stations with broadcast equipment” had been spent, leaving R24.18 million untouched.
This made up part of the total of R710 million that remained unspent during the past financial year.
On hearing the news, Bush Radio Managing Director Brenda Leonard said this was “a shame”.
She said in 2010 the station had applied to the department for new equipment to replace the ageing 15-yeear-old equipment they were currently working with, but had received no response.
Other community radio stations across the country have also criticised the department for not spending their money while they battled with outdated equipment.
Cape Town’s Radio Zibonele Station Manager Mzamo Ngomane said it was “awful” that the department neglected to spend their money while radio stations were badly in need of funds.
Communication of the existence of the fund by the Department of Communication was also lacking. Ngomane said he did not even know the money was there, if he had, he would have applied for new equipment as what they were using was donated to them “a long time ago”.
Eastern Cape’s Vukani Community Radio Station Manager Xola Nozewu said their equipment was also “appalling” but did not want to comment before the department provided reasons for not spending their money.
Speaking on behalf of the National Community Radio Forum Patrick Kikine said it was “premature” to blame the department as they had told the forum the budget might not be spent.
He said there was a meeting scheduled for October where the issue will be discussed.
But Kikine said the CRF was aware of the problems facing Bush Radio and said “I promise you it will not close down”.
Department of Communications spokesperson Pearl Seopela did not deny that the R24 million for community radio had not been spent, but said the department’s 2010/2011 Annual Report had yet to be tabled before Parliament.
“I will therefore advise you to wait for our media briefing where we will highlight issues that are addressed in the Annual Report,” she said.
Hawker reported that the Auditor General’s report blamed the lack of delivery by the department on “the monster clash between former Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda and axed Director Genral Mamodupi Mohlala”. — Sandiso Phaliso