Interview with the CEO of Zibonele FM Mr Mawande Jara

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  1. Please take us through your background and how you got into radio?

I Mawande Jara (affectionately known as Mkhuzangwe), was born in a small rural town of Qoboqobo (formerly known as Keiskammahoek) in Eastern Cape. I am the eldest of five (5) siblings and was mainly raised by my grandmother. I obtain my basic education in various school in western and in Eastern including Ikamva Lethu High school, where l matriculated.

I enrolled for diploma in Public Management in Cape Peninsula University of Technology, l also completed Advance Diploma in Public Administration and I hold a Post graduate diploma in Project Management. Currently I am persuading my forth qualification in Post graduate diploma in Small-Medium Enterprise Development and Consulting.

I have started my career in Department of Social development as Social Development worker, a position I held for three years and was promoted to the position of Administrative Officer at the Department of community safety. I was further promoted to the position of Professional Officer in the City of Cape Town municipality, responsible for a unity that consisted of 6 people. I joined Zibonele FM in 2014 as the Director for corporate services and later promoted to the position of the Chief Executive Officer. Under my stewardship Zibonele FM has achieved the following:

1.1. Listenership grew from 161 000 to 270 000 in a period of 2 years.

1.2. Registered Zibonele FM as accredited training provider/ academy under MICT Seta, Zibonele FM academy is providing NQF level 5 radio production course and certificate in Journalism.

1.3. Under my leadership Zibonele FM received the following accolades: Best listeners Choice Station of the Year (NCRW 2017) Ingoma awards (Best gospel presenter 2017), Satma Awards (Best Community Radio DJ), Best Station of the Year (NCRW 2017/2018) and Best Children’s show. Nominee in three different categories (Liberty Awards 2017) and nominee in 4 different categories (Liberty Awards 2018).

1.4. Developed Zibonele FM mobile application for live streaming which aims to help people who ae unable to reach us within the province and outside.

I led in different community development structures under the auspices of Khayelitsha Development Forum (also known as KDF), where I demonstrated dedication in community upliftment and ploughing to the community.

My passion for community development grew significantly after working in office of service and I realised at that point and seeing the need people had for a better communication tool I ventured into Radio with the hopes of strengthening and bridging the gap between the community and government.

  1. Zibonele FM has improved its listenership since you took over as station manager, how was this archived?

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all team members of Zibonele FM, particularly volunteers who devoted their time and resources to ensure that the station realises its founding objectives, that of informing, educating and entertaining community through diverse and accurate radio programming. It is always a great challenge to work with volunteers, however, with the calibre of volunteers we have successfully increased the size of our audience as the result of the dedication and commitment. The strategy we employed was underpinned by the following pillars: Team work and continuous motivation, I have ensured that all employees are of the team, their contribution is well recognised and acknowledged at all times. Continuous motivation sessions were provided to staff to ensure that nothing deters them from accomplishing the broadcasting task.

Community outreach/maintaining community contact is the second pillar that underpins our strategy: Throughout the broadcasting year we have entered into partnership with different local companies to ensure broad visibility of the station across all sectors of the society. As the station we have organized events that serves as the platform for social cohesion, where diverse group of our people come together to celebrate their culture, religion, music and share experiences. Quality Programming and accurate content has served as bed rock in increasing listenership and deepening of loyalty to our brand. Radio is an integral part of media sector and it remains relevant, to maintain its relevance it has to move with times hence use of modern technology became key in our strategy. We have undertaken to revamp our website to be more responsive and enable users to interact, strengthened our visibility on social networks and launched a mobile application for cell phone users to easily access radio in their mobile phones. Thus has yielded magnificent result as listeners who access us through internet has grew from 1% to 2,5% and has enabled listeners who are outside our catchment area to contact us.

  1. As a young CEO of a major community radio station, what do you think is needed to improve the quality of community radio stations in South Africa?

Community radio sector remains a potent community mouth piece which amongst other issues aims at espousing of local content and unearthing of local talent. It can achieve this through support it will receive from the community, government and the private sector/corporate world. In order for the sector to flourish Government should develop sustainable supporting models without taking away editorial independence, the model should speak to continuous method of leadership development aiming inculcating the culture of corporate governance that will enhance effectiveness in the sector. In the main the central government has established agencies such as Media Development Diversity Agency to empower community media, this is commendable initiative and has proven to work, however, it can be more effective if it can be replicated in all spheres of government.

Municipalities have a huge role to play and the law should compel them to do so. National treasury has adopted a policy which stipulates that 30 % of advertising budget should be spent on community radio, this is an impressive step towards the right direction, however, there should be monitoring mechanism to ensure adherence to the policy.

There is general perception that all community radio are just community projects that are not professionally managed of which that not the case, this can only be eradicated if communities are employing developmental approach in growing the station, provide necessary support, protect the stations from political capture and spare the stations from community conflicts.

Corporate sector should regard community radio sector as the place to invest and contribute in the development of the sector by not limiting its involvement only on advertising rather on holistic development of the entire industry.

  1. How is the support of corporate South Africa, especially the ones which are targeting community consumers in regards to supporting your station?

As things stands corporate and community radio collaboration is confined to advertising and thus suggest there is little support provided by corporate sector.  The system that is currently used by major role players in the corporate world is not favourable for community radio, for lucrative advertisement deals to reach community radio it goes through Advertising agencies which certain percentage (agency fees which goes up to 30% and above) and that results in radio stations getting cramps of the cake. I am no nearer to the notion that suggests dependency and stations to depend on handouts rather I wish to extend an invite and challenge to big business to work directly with community radios and l am certain they will receive professional and sound service. Over and above they will see return on investment.        

  1. How did the Training Academy come about?

Community radio serves as an incubator and preparatory institution for raw talent, this has been proven to be the effective method to nature talent for main stream media. Having produced quit number of renowned radio presenters and discovered talent, accredited and recognised skills remains a great challenge, especially with previously disadvantage youth. Scarcity of resources disempowers community radio of an opportunity to apply skills retention strategy as it cannot compete with established and main stream media, however, we remain uncontested in human capital development.

Having done a comprehensive analysis, we have established a need for accredited training academy that will provide recognizable skills that will help aspirant radio presenters to sharpen their traits and enables them to enter the job. Radio is diverse and thus required not to confine the scope of the academy to radio only rather to essential skills needed in the market. So far the academy is accredited to provide 5 different qualifications: National Certificate on Radio Production (NQF level 5), National Certificate on Information technology (End User Computing NQF level 3), National Certificate on Systems Development (NQF level 5), National Certificate on technical Support (NQF level 4) and national certificate on Information Technology systems development (NQF level 4) and National Certificate on Journalism (NQF Level 5). In 2018 academy has trained 25 learners through a programme that was funded by MICT Seta collective effort between enthusiastic learners, facilitators and Zibonele FM personnel has led to 96% pass rate.

  1. After numerous awards and achievements by Zibonele FM, where to from here for the station?

Zibonele FM Team would like to thank everybody who contributed in bringing about all achievements thus far, starting from listeners, board, management, presenters and support technical staff. We further request them to continue with the good work, as there are many tasks laying ahead of us. From the inception Zibonele wanted to distinguish itself as the best community radio in Cape Peninsula region, we have achieved that mile stone as we are sting in 2nd place nationwide and we are striving to be in 1st place country wide.

We are working around the clock to ensure that our coverage is improving so we cover cape metro to its entirety, once more we urge our stakeholders and supporters to be patient with us and give full support as the process is tedious and involves quit number of stakeholders.

We remain unshaken in a vision of creating Zibonele Media house which will consist of community newspaper, Music production house, training academy (existing) and community TV. We are likely to realise our vision in a space of 18-24 months. The medial house will stimulate township economy, develop skills and create jobs to many communities.

Zibonele leadership is working tirelessly in exploring possibilities for growth and we are in no opposition to become a regional radio that will broadcast for the whole province.

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