Radio station manager gets death threats

FEARFUL: Imbokodo FM station manager Sandile Ngema. © Unknown.
FEARFUL: Imbokodo FM station manager Sandile Ngema. © Unknown.

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Imbokodo FM's station manager, Sandile Ngema, fears for his life after receiving death threats from unknown people.

Imbokodo FM is a community radio station based at Nsimbini in Folweni, south of Durban. It has been on air since December 2003.

Ngema, 30, said things turned ugly after a meeting with staff a week ago at which he urged everybody "to pull up their socks or face the music".

He took the action after the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) asked that the station meet its licensing requirements or lose its licence.

Some staff were unhappy with the dressing down and allegedly followed through with death threats.

"Icasa informed me it was dissatisfied with a number of things at the station, including our programming, and that most of our employees were not following licensing policies," Ngema said.

"They also said they had received complaints from the public about the station."

Ngema said Icasa told him if he wanted to see the station's licence renewed in December, he would have to act decisively.

"Last week, I called a staff meeting and we reviewed each and every programme. We made recommendations and suggestions where we felt we needed them, and apparently this did not go down well with some employees," he said.

He said on the day of the meeting, he received a call from a husband of a breakfast show DJ, and former Ukhozi FM DJ, Nonhlanhla Mkhize-Mlaba.

"He asked me who I thought I was to try and dismiss his wife from her job. I was perturbed because I had never mentioned anything about expelling anyone.

"All I had said was that those who will not live up to the challenge and respond positively to some recommendations would be dismissed," he said.

Ngema said one of the anchors, Mgcino Shezi, opened a phone-in programme where he announced that they had all been fired and that the station was to be shut down.

"People began cursing me and calling me names. I can understand their frustration when hearing that the station was closing down, but it was all wrong. I could not close the station because it's not mine, but the community's," he said.

He said the situation became so bad he had to ask police to escort him to work.

The station manager said an emergency meeting with board members was called to clarify what was happening, and they closed the station for a few hours on Thursday. But, after Icasa's intervention, the station was back on air on Friday.

Mkhize-Mlaba denied that her husband threatened Ngema. She said he only asked him to clarify what he had said at the meeting.

"It's blatant lies that my husband threatened him. He is not the kind of person who would do such a thing," she said.

Mkhize-Mlaba still hosts the breakfast show.

Lindisa Mabulu, Icasa's complaint's officer, confirmed that the station was given a warning to comply with the regulatory requirements or face losing its licence.

She said she had received a call from one of the employees, informing her that the station was off air.

"I spoke to the station manager and requested that the station resume broadcasting.

"It was not necessary that its listeners be made to suffer because of internal squabbles," she said.

KwaMakhutha police confirmed Ngema had reported the death threats and said the matter was being investigated.