Strike at popular Khayelitsha radio station

| Johnnie Isaac

Programming returned to normal at Khayelitsha’s Radio Zibonele Community Station on Sunday following two days of disruptions due to a strike by the majority of the station’s staff.

Dozens of the station employees, including presenters, programmers and news staff, boycotted work on Friday morning and staged protests at the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) offices. The staff are accusing the station management of unfair labour practices, citing nepotism and favouritsm among other concerns. They claim that the station’s head of marketing Hlumisa Matshobongwana got the position because she is married to Mzamo Ngomane who is the station manager. They have questioned her ability to do the job, claiming that a number of clients pulled out of the station because of a bad relationship with her. They also accused Ngomane of giving employment preference to members of Christian Family Values Church in which he is a pastor. Others alleged that the community station doesn’t supply them with earphones, notebooks, and has stopped its allowances for lunch and other necessities.

The station was forced to recall many of its former employees to fill the void and stay on air but programmes could not run in their usual order. An emergency meeting that involved all stakeholders of Radio Zibonele, which include members of KDF, religious groupings, representatives of its staff and the station management was held at the KDF offices Saturday afternoon. All sides were given an opportunity to present their grievances.

However, Ngomane denied the claims labelled against him. He said, “Those making these allegations have no facts to back them up.” He produced a list of station employees he has hired who are not members of his church. He said some people go to Christian Family Values but are not members.

Regarding the claim that his wife got the head of marketing job he said, “Hlumisa joined the company in June 2012 and we got married in December 2013.” Ngomane said they were not involved at that time because he was married but later got divorced and his divorce didn’t have anything to do with her, “I’m also a church pastor and I do not practice extramarital affairs,” said Ngomane. He said he was not even involved in the process of hiring her. “An outside company, Dikela and Sons chaired the process. He said they used an outside agency to outsource people for some senior positions. Ngomane said allegations against his wife sound cynical because some of the people making those claims such as Vuyiswa Nganyaza were competing with her for the same position but lost out.

The Saturday meeting resulted in the establishment of a special crisis committee to probe the allegations made by employees. “The committee will start its investigation on the 12 May 2014 and conclude on the 22 May 2014, then table the report on the following day to the stakeholders,” said Zithobile Mthandeki who was part of the meeting on behalf of the station employees. He said, “The staff is ‘over the moon’ at this latest development and hope that the process will be fair to all.”

The staff apologised to the listeners for programming disruptions. Mthandeki said, “What we did was for the best interest of the listeners, not just about us, we had to sacrifice and risk it all.” Programming went back to normal from yesterday morning and will go on until the 23 May 2014. The future of the station programming will depend on the outcome of the task team. Mthandeki had harsh words for those who didn’t take part in the strike. He said “They stabbed us in the back while we were doing this for everybody’s benefit working for the station.”

The staff also expressed their gratitude to various organisations and trade unions who supported them. Among these were Creative Workers Union, KDF, Cosatu, Seskhona People’s Rights Movement, South African Communist Party, Right to Know Campaign, Treatment Action Campaign, a Labour Lawyer whose identity won’t revealed, Sanco, and community members.

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TOPICS:  Arts and culture Labour

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