Residents of Letlhabile near Brits in North West province took over the control of a local radio station on Monday, demanding that the board disband and the station manager resign.
They wanted Letlhabile Community Radio (LCR) station manager Linco Sono and board of directors out, stating that they failed to call an annual general meeting (AGM) for the past seven years.
Sono was accused of firing presenters without following proper procedures, allegedly channeling money from advertisers into her personal bank account, taking furniture donated to the radio station and allegedly keeping the station wifi router at her home.
The protesters, waving placards calling for Sono to fall, arrived at the radio station escorted by police.
They protested at the gate and refused to be addressed by the acting chairperson of the board Benjamin Diutlweng and secretary Patricia Smith, citing that they were not elected at the previous AGM held in 2010.
“These two were not elected, they were co-opted by the station manager, we only recognise ntate [James] Yolwa. He is the only member elected in 2010,” said protest convenor Paul Matopi.
James Yolwa was the only remaining member of the board elected at the 2010 AGM.
After a lengthy discussion, a group representing the community was allowed into the radio station’s premises, but were not allowed to enter the station manager’s office where they were supposed to negotiate with the three board members.
One of the community leaders switched off the transmitter and ordered presenter Mmakgomotso Mazeleni out of the studio.
The station was off air for a short time before suspended presenter Lesley Maseloane was dramatically “reinstated” by the community leaders.
His first task was to inform the community about the situation at the radio station and that an interim board had been appointed to arrange an AGM and that the station manager had been sacked.
Diutlwileng and Smith were later escorted out by the police after they had locked themselves in an office, refusing to meet community representatives.
Community representatives remained locked in a meeting with Yolwa and Comfort Mnisi.
Mnisi is currently production manager and the community preferred him to take over the position of the secretary of the board and Yolwa to be the deputy chairperson.
The meeting was to discuss the appointment of an acting station manager and the reinstatement of suspended and fired presenters.
Mazeleni said she was traumatised after a group of residents stormed into the studio during her Kgatelo Pele ya Sechaba [success of the nation] programme between 10:00 to 13:00.
“They ordered me to switch off the microphone, I refused and they just switched the radio off. I was so traumatised and walked out of the studio.”
One of the dismissed staffers Pone Dinkebogile, who was the acting programmes manager when she was dismissed in August, said the station manager fired people without following procedures. She was fired for being off sick.
“She just fires you, without charging you or taking you to a disciplinary hearing.”
Yolwa said: “It is a difficult situation, people want their demands to be answered now. Everything is with immediate effect.”
He pointed out that they were not been consulted on the march and were also not given enough time to respond to the memorandum of demands.
Letlhabile Community Radio was founded 17 years ago and broadcasts over a 50 kilometre radius.