By Subry Govender
The move for the establishment of a radio station for the descendants of indentured labourers was started in 2009 at a time when preparations were made to commemmorate the arrival of our forefathers and mothers 152 years ago.
The main proponents were Mr Swaminathan Gounden, a former political activist; Mr Balan Gounden, a cultural leader; and Mr Subry Govender, veteran struggle journalist and political activist.
They spoke to a wide range of people and organisations about the establishment of such a station.
The unanimous response was: "It's long overdue."
Although we have provided full details in our application for a licence and in numerous communications with ICASA, we wish to make the following submissions:
1). Southside FM Radio represents South Africans whose mother tongues are Tamil and Telugu.
2). We make up nearly 55 percent of the more than 1,4-million South Africans of Indian origin.
3). We are mainly descendants of indentured labourers who worked almost as slaves on the sugar plantations of then Natal Colony since the 1860s.
4). The leaders emanating from this community over the past 152 years have played very important roles in the social, educational, business, sporting and political development of South Africa.
Some of the leaders who have emerged from this community include:
Dr Monty Naicker, who worked with leaders of the calibre of Dr Albert Luthuli; Mr Billy Nair, who spent more than 20 years on Robben Island with leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu; political activists Swaminathan Gounden, R D Naidoo, Advocate M D Naidoo, Mrs Phyllis Naidoo; Mr M N Pather, R K Naidoo and Mr Morgan Naidoo, who played leading roles in isolating apartheid sport and promoting the freedom struggles during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s; Mr Ronnie Govender and Mr Subry Govender - journalists who played important roles in promoting the freedom struggles through their work; and the late Cabinet Minister, Mr Roy Padaychie, who died in early 2012.
After having contributed to the liberation struggles, some of the leaders - including the late Mr Padaychie, Mr Balan Gounder, Mr Swaminathan Gounden and Mr Subry Govender, who retired from the SABC in 2009 after joining in 1995, got together and discussed what we should do to, not only to promote the rich cultures, languages and traditions of this community, but also to inculcate the values and principles of being a full South African. One of these values is the promotion of the IsiZulu language among this community.
At a meeting in October 2009, it was decided that we should establish a radio station in order to promote these values.
Southside FM Radio was thus initiated.
A committee, under the chairpersonship of Mr Subry Govender, was elected at a meeting held at the David Landau Community Centre in Asherville, Durban, in October 2009.
Since the meeting, Mr Govender, Mr Gounder, Mr Gounder, Ms Keresha Govender(treasurer) and Mrs Thirupurasundrie Govender (secretary) got down to apply for a NPO registration number, a community radio licence and a frequency.
This was granted early in 2011 by the Department of Social Welfare.
The number is 089 - 426.
COMMUNITY RADIO LICENCE
After a great deal of communications with ICASA for nearly two years and after the submission of our bounded documents, we were granted a five-year community radio licence by ICASA in September 2011. The late Minister Roy Padaychee played an important role in this regard.
In view of the tremendous interest shown by the community for the establishment of a radio station, we organised a cultural evening and fund-raising dinner at the MTSS in Merebank, Durban, on Saturday, February 25.
The function was a huge and phenomenal success with more than 500 supporters, donors and sponsors supporting the scheduled launch of the radio station.
Nearly R1-million was raised on the evening for the radio station.
In our communications with ICASA and Sentech, we have repeatedly and regularly pointed out in writing that our primary and main target market is situated:
* in and around the city of Durban - Chatsworth, Phoenix, and Pinetown.
* the North Coast - Verulam, Tongaat, Stanger, Richards Bay.
* the South Coast - Port Shepstone, Umzinto, Umkomaas, Amanzimtoti.
* Pietermaritzburg, Ladysmith, Dundee and Newcastle.
* Johannesburg - Midrand and Randburg/Fourways/Bryanstan
* Pretoria - Laudium/Benoni
* Cape Town
* Port Elizabeth.
We made it clear that initially we wanted to start broadcasting to the primary target area of Durban and then extend to the other regions.
Prior to the granting of the community radio licence in September 2011, we had been given a number of co-ordinates by ICASA and SENTECH. Two frequencies allocated but not confirmed were 94.4 and 93.6 MHz.
But at every turn we were told that the frequencies were clashing with one another or that they were in use by other radio stations.
We found that at least two frequencies used by community radio stations that had operated from Durban had not been broadcasting for more than two years. One of the community radio stations has since started to operate again through the assistance of the authorities.
But one of the community radio stations (as far as we are aware) is still out of operation for more than two years.
We have repeatedly pointed out that our main and initial target market is situated in the Durban area, north coast, south coast and the Pietermaritzburg region. But unfortunately we have been told that Durban area is congested and that there are no frequencies.
Instead we were told to apply for frequencies in the Pietermaritzburg area, Newcastle-Ladysmith, and Port Shepstone.
Subsequently we were told that Pietermaritzburg was not feasible and was only granted a frequency in the Port Shepstone area from Port Edward to Umkomaas.
After we received this frequency we consulted with our supporters and donors. We found that most people felt that our main target market is in and around Durban, north coast, south coast and Pietermaritzburg and it would not be financially feasible to broadcast only in the Port Shepstone region.
Our committee felt that we must point this out to ICASA and this was done when we held a meeting with ICASA in Johannesburg on June 19.
We believe that:
1. It will not be financial feasible to broadcast only in the Port Shepstone area because most of our target market is in the Durban area and in the Johannesburg-Pretoria region.
2. ICASA must find a solution for us because our supporters and donors are looking forward to the launch of our radio station as soon as possible.
MEETING WITH ICASA
In view of the problems encountered in obtaining a frequency we held a meeting with two ICASA officials in Johannesburg on June 25. Our delegation was made up of Mr Subry Govender(Secretary); Ms Poomanie Naidoo, chairperson of the South African Tamil Federation; Mr Micky Chetty, former chairperson of the SATF and current chairperson of the International Organisation for the Promotion of Tamil; Mr T Chetty, Public Relations Officer of the SATF and Mr Savesh Pather, a MK veteran.
We gave the ICASA officials a detailed account of Southside FM Radio and repeated most of the information we had supplied in our application for a community radio licence.
After listening to our presentations, the two officials asked us to provide them with details of the premises in Durban, together with the co-ordinates, from where we would broadcast from.
They told the Southside delegation that once this was done they would select the premises with the maximum coverage and provide us with the frequency.
As soon as we returned to Durban, we submitted details of seven premises together with the co-ordinates to ICASA. We completed the application forms with the assistance of Sentech.
Towards the end of July, one of the officials telephoned Mr Subry Govender and informed him that they might have some "good news" for us. He said they had identified a frequency and he would inform us soon of the latest development.
The official, at the request of Mr Govender, submitted this information to Southside. He pointed out that he still had to clear this with Sentech.
A few days later the ICASA official came back to Mr Govender to inform him through another letter that the frequency, 103.4 MHz, would clash with another radio station in Eshowe and, therefore, for the time being there was no frequency for us.
We wrote back to ICASA informing the communications agency that we were deeply disappointed and wanted to know what has happened to information we had supplied about the premises where we had hoped to broadcast from.
We also requested a response from ICASA as to what more must we do to be granted a frequency. We also requested another meeting with ICASA to discuss the situation.
As already mentioned we want to launch as soon as possible but the issue of frequency continues to be a hurdle.
We are still having problems and would like urgent intervention so that we could make speedy progress in the launch of our Southside FM Radio station.
The late Minister, Roy Padaychee, told our cultural evening that "it's not right that you have been granted a community licence but a frequency has not yet been finalised".
In conclusion, we would like to say that:
Southside FM Radio will be a progressive voice - not only promoting the cultures, languages, and traditions of people of South Indian origin but will also promote the full South African-ness of our target market.
We are South Africans and will promote this fully. In view of this we have decided to promote the teaching of IsiZulu on our radio station when we start.
We are being supported in our project not only by the community in general but also by cultural, linguistic, musical, social, and business leaders but also by prominent leaders who played significant roles in our struggles for our new, non-racial democracy.
Our target market is not only in the Durban, north coast, south coast, Pietermaritzburg region but also in the Johannesburg-Pretoria region; Cape Town; Port Elizabeth-East London; Newcastle-Ladysmith and Richard Bay.