The state-owned enterprise (SOE) operating in the broadcasting signal distribution and telecommunications sectors, Sentech, has suspended the operations of 15 community radio stations that are overly indebted to the SOE.
This is according to reports in the media, which further revealed that Sentech started switching off some of these radio stations last week, and would continue to do so this week until amounts of money due to the SOE were paid.
Numerous other radio stations have been informed by the SOE through a letter that should they fail to make immediate payments, then their services would be suspended, it is further reported.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has lambasted Sentech for the decision, calling on the SOE to put these radio stations back on the air.
“It is a shame that community radio stations, which are nonprofit entities, are expected to raise their own funds through advertising, sponsorship and fundraising. If the radio stations are owing money to Sentech, it is clear that the grant money offered by the Media Development and Diversity Agency, another state-owned entity, is insufficient to cover the expenses of the stations,” the red berets said in a statement.
According to reports, one radio station had attempted to make payment arrangements with the SOE, but could not reach an agreement on the initial balloon payment and monthly instalments, which were reportedly too steep for the affected radio station.
The EFF said community radio stations play an important role in the dissemination of information to communities, which is crucial because a better-informed populace can take part in elections, and hold the government to account while influencing its policy direction.
“Our people, who were previously disadvantaged, are put in an even worse position when they are deprived of knowledge and information,” the EFF’s statement reads.
The party added that suspending the services of these radio stations worsened unemployment in their respective communities, which, the party said, is not conducive as the government has failed to create sustainable jobs.
“The EFF calls on the communications minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, to make sufficient funding available to all community radio stations and the governments in the respective legislation to which the radio stations belong support the stations in terms of advertising. The continued squandering of funds and corruption existent in the government is what has led to this debacle,” the party said.
The affected radio stations have reported called for a meeting with Mokonyane to discuss the suspension of their services to due to overdue payments.