Zibonele FM, the Khayelitsha community radio station, is back on air as from Thursday but for a limited period. According to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), the 28-year-old radio station that went off air in July due to non-compliance with broadcast regulations, has been granted a special events community sound broadcasting service (SE-CSBS) licence. The licence allows the station to broadcast Heritage Day celebrations and related events.
“The non-renewable SE-CSBS license is in effect from 1 September through 16 October 2022 and is valid for 45 days,” says Dumisani Khumalo from Icasa. “Zibonele FM’s standard community sound broadcasting licence has not been renewed. However, they have been granted a special events licence that allows them to broadcast between September 1 and October 16, 2022.”
Icasa has disputed a post on the radio station’s Facebook page that states that the station is back on air but not mentioning that it will be temporary.
In July, Icasa accused Zibonele FM of unfortunate misinformation and misrepresentation of facts that were spread on various media platforms about the reasons for its imminent closure.
On a Facebook post addressed to the media signed by the board chairperson, Mthetheleli Vellem, the station thanks the listeners, advertisers and the role that the Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has played in the situation. They also posted a picture of the certificate dated 19 August. The post heaps praise on the role of the station management and the resilience of its personnel and called for a night vigil to celebrate the “great milestone”. In all of this they omitted the fact that it is a non-renewable, special licence and only valid until 16 October.
Source: Zibonele FM’s Facebook page
The station’s licence expired in October 2018 and had been broadcasting without a licence until they were forced to switch off in July. Elitsha reported that the station management did not handle the situation well, still defending their mistakes on the last day on-air and did not take responsibility for the closure of the station. They instead mobilised community members against Icasa. The authority raised concerns about what it called the “unfortunate misinformation and misrepresentation of facts that have been spread on various media platforms about the reasons for the imminent closure of Zibonele community radio.”
After the station returned the transmitter, they continued to broadcast on DSTV and online, which does not require a licence.
At the time of publication, Zibonele FM did not respond to questions sent to them.