AmaNdebele leaders lose radio bid

It is alleged that SABC failed to issue the council with the relevant details of the migration. Photo: File

It is alleged that SABC failed to issue the council with the relevant details of the migration. Photo: File

The fight taken up by amaNdebele traditional leaders to nullify the SABC’s endeavour to relocate popular radio station Ikwekwezi FM to the public broadcaster’s headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, was upset by the Johannesburg High Court, which dismissed their bid this week.

The aggrieved leaders feel that the move is not in the best interest of the station’s 1.7 million listeners, and contend that the decision to relocate was made without proper consultation with the amaNdebele king and the chiefs.

According to an affidavit deposed by Prince Zilani Ralph Mahlangu, the chairperson of the Ndzundza Mabhoko Traditional Council, in court this month, the SABC overlooked King Mabhoko III when coming to its decision.

Mahlangu argued:

The chiefs and his excellency heard the news, which was in the public domain, that the SABC was unable to sustain the lease contract with the landlord of the Hatfield SABC offices, but this was never communicated to the Ndebele nation and/or its chiefs.

He alluded that the lack of consultation by the SABC had been a violation of their constitutional rights, as the king and the chiefs were custodians of the Ndebele language.

There was no official consultation by the SABC to his excellency, King Mabhoko III, and/or his chiefs about this decision. Numerous attempts for consultations were made by the various chiefs and the Ndebele nation, and sometimes they presented themselves to the SABC Hatfield offices, but the latter never gave them a hearing or [showed the] desire to engage with them.

He said the SABC failed to issue the council with the relevant details of the migration.

The leaders consequently wanted the court to rule that the SABC erred by enforcing the relocation without an agreement with the traditional council being in place.

“The applicants have established prima facie that their only national asset, which is Ikwekwezi FM, was relocated without their consent and/or consultation as the custodians of the Ndebele language.

“Second, they will suffer irreparable harm when Ikwekwezi FM is relocated to Johannesburg since 75% of the Ndebele people scattered in rural areas will not be able to access the station…

“This decision was taken by the SABC without the involvement of their chiefs.

“The applicants humbly submit that the balance of probabilities favours the granting of relief pending a possible settlement agreement to be negotiated between the parties,” the affidavit reads.

Mahlangu said they delayed taking legal action against the SABC in the hope that the broadcaster would facilitate consultative processes.

The SABC is a self-regulatory institution. Besides the budget allocated by the communications minister each year, it has a running budget which it collects in the form of revenue derived from adverts and the like. “Therefore, [the SABC cannot say that it is unable to pay rental for a single building of the SABC offices in Hatfield].

A group of civil society organisations marched to Auckland Park in April last year demanding that the station remain in Pretoria, or have it relocated to KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga.

SABC head of communications and stakeholder relations Ndileka Cola said the broadcaster would forge ahead with plans to relocate the station.

“The SABC can confirm that the urgent application to interdict the relocation of Ikwekwezi FM from Pretoria to Auckland Park was heard on July 12.

“The judge in the matter dismissed the application.

“The effect of the dismissal of the application is that the decision to relocate Ikwekwezi FM from Pretoria to Auckland Park by the corporation stands.”