As the late reggae sensation Bob Marley once sang, ‘My music fights against the system that teaches people to live and die’,so doesNBC’s head of radio services, Mushita Mukwame believe media must reflect the conditions of those who live in the ghettos.
Having been in the industry for 25 years, this media guru has gained enough insight and experience into the art of news-making to confidently say that the Namibian press has come a long way.
The radio service leg of the NBC has more than ten radio stations, which cater for different Namibian ethnic groups. The main one is the national radio, which aims to reach a wider audience. This wing of NBC employs more than 300 people and reaches an audience of at least one million people.
“I delegate tasks to my colleagues and oversee the overall operation of the department,” says the 50-year-old former Kizito College graduate. He studied Visual Arts at the University of the North, which was renamed ‘Limpopo’, in South Africa.
Before Independence, Mukwame recalls being gagged from reporting fair and objective news stories while working for the then South West African Broadcasting Corporation (SWABC), which was owned by the white settlers.
He was stationed at the English desk of the broadcaster’s newsroom, alongside two of his current colleagues - Corry Tjaviondja and Richard van Wyk - who were both working as journalists for the South African media under the apartheid regime.
“Propaganda from the white regime dominated the news headlines then. There was constant conflict between our white colleagues and ourselves on what stories to run. Most of the time, stories that promoted the apartheid agenda and those that discredited Swapo made headlines,” Mukwame recalls, adding, “Positive stories about none-whites were discouraged.”
In 1992, the Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma signed an agreement with the then president of the United States, Bill Clinton, for opportunities to be availed for Namibians to study in America. The same year, Mukwame went to further his studies at the Jackson State University in Mississippi where he did his Masters in Mass Communication and graduated in 1995. He would return to Namibia to continue working at NBC.
Today, like many Namibian media practitioners, Mukwame enjoys the privileges of a free and independent Namibian press.
“There has been great improvement in the local media environment, which was formerly dominated and controlled to promote a specific ideology of apartheid. Today, the media content has shifted from colonial propaganda to monitoring the developmental journey of the country,” he admits.
Mukwame still believes that in the face of the rapidly expanding social media and other sources of information, traditional radio remains relevant, most especially to those in the rural areas where most of the population solely relies on it.
“The relevance of radio can never be undermined. I believe that as long as there are people, there will always be the need to communicate,” he says, adding, when the entire NBC staff went on strike last year due to grievances within, those who were mostly affected were the elderly in the rural areas.
“We received lots of text messages from various rural community members, lamenting about how they did not know from which pay-points to collect their pensions and Government grants, or where to get funeral announcements of their loved ones due to the strike. This just went to show how important this tool of communication really is,” he says.
One of the changes he plans to bring to his department is the expansion of the radio frequency coverage using the latest technology via the internet, which he believes is the future of mass communication.
“We want to make radio more accessible to everybody to increase our audience base but to achieve this, we must invest in research and development, including the human resources,” he asserts.
He adds: “There is the need to train the staff on how to find the right news content; how to do proper research and how to present the information to the audience. A conference on radio programming for radio presenters is currently in the pipeline.”
Another project en conduit is the name changing of the indigenous language services, he says: “Currently, each radio station is named after the dialect of the audience it serves. In future, this will change. We will give each radio station a more neutral name to break the tribal barriers that surround each radio station’s audiences.”
Mukwame thus encourages young media aspirants to take on from where he and other veteran media practitioners shall leave off. “We are privileged to have a free and independent media environment. We must thus take that opportunity to reflect on the issues of society just like Bob Marley did through reggae music,” he concludes. PF