The lack of community radio station in Mdantsane, which is one of the biggest townships in South Africa, resulted in the community taking matters in their own hands by illegally going on air in 2008. Mdzee FM operated via satellite from the back of a butchery owned by former SENTECH technician turned businessmen Sivuyile Mahlahla,and soon it became popular as it was the only voice of the community which sought to address various problems facing them. Despite its popularity the station was later forcefully closed down by the authorities and its equipment confiscated to much resistance by the community, a move that necessitated the opening of Mdantsane FM.
It’s not surprising that when Mdantsane FM finally went on air about five years ago, it is alleged that 107 000 listeners tuned in from the community which was starved any community media for some time. To ensure growth and keeping with its mandate of changing people’s lives and of being an integral part of its community, the station moved to its new home from Mdantsane hotel.
“For the purpose of visibility and constant practical interaction with our listeners, we decided to move the station away from the almost hidden first location, and identified the Mdantsane City Mall as ideal for our listeners, our staff and the growth of the station,” said station manager Xabiso Gqirhana.
He said that the station was long overdue and that since it started they have had a positive impact on the community of Mdantsane and the surrounding area in more ways than one.
“Our programming alone without mentioning the outreach programmes that we embark on, I can say we are making a huge positive impact, re-affirming the station’s slogan of siguqul’ ubomi (changing lives ) , some lives are really changing for the better.”
What excites him the most is the role the station is playing in empowering the youth as it helps develop, recognise and grooms young talent.
“The station harnesses the skills of its personnel, mostly the unemployed youth and grooms them for career readiness. Since we started in 2011 we have produced seven radio presenters that were all recruited and now are employed by SABC-owned Tru FM commercial radio. We really proud ourselves with the achievements the station and its personnel has continued to reach,”he said.
With numerous local and national awards under the station’s belt like the Best Community Radio playing Choral Music award (NACMA 20102/13), South African Traditional Awards nominee (SATMA 2013/14), MTN Awards nominee 2015, it’s a huge achievement for such a young station which not long ago struggled without funding and proper broadcasting equipment.