Despite increasing cut-throat competition from other electronic media, mainly from profit-driven radio stations Ohangwena Community radio (OCR) station has distinguished itself here in the Ohangwena region driven by the passion to speak for the voiceless.
Despite limited resources, in most cases relying on the Ohangwena Regional Council (ORC), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), United Nations International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF), volunteers and community members, the station, located in Federation, a shanty township here, has weathered the storms for 15 years championing the voice of the Ohangwena region's populaces in towns like Oshikango, Onuno, Ondobe, Ondangwa and Okongo.
The radio station was established in 1997 under the Multi Media Centre and ORC to serve the residents of the region, which is home to more than 10,000 people.Acting Station Manager, Sackeus Dumeni, popularly known as DJ SD, says the station has given audience to the majority of the town's residents for 15 years, despite financial constraints, emanating from the fact that it is a community radio station, which is itching to become commercial.
Over the years it has relied heavily and mainly on volunteers from the town or staff who were paid mearge wages compared to other commercial radio stations in Namibia. But the passion to serve communities made them to strive and fight for its survival. The beginning in 1997 was the worst and darkest year because it was nearly forced to close when donor funds dried up. "But when one door closes, the other opens," says DJ SD. True to his words, new donors came on board to bail out the radio station. MISA, UNICEF and Namibia Institute of Democracy (NID) also came on board joining their traditional sponsors, the town of Ohangwena, and the ORC.
"The time will come when our name change will come into effect when we establish a permanent budget as we will also be maturing in the process of serious broadcasting in Namibia. We shall include mature content for our listeners to keep up with the international broadcasting trends. So far, we are operating from 0900 hours to 2100 hours from Monday to Friday and because of our limitations, which include human resources and finance, our radio is not broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays," says DJ SD.
Since the station has only one volunteer reporter, it relies heavily rely on national newspapers like the New Era and the Namibian and other broadcast radio news. It does not have access to the NBC TV there being no network in the Ohangwena region, and sometimes they rely on online editions to source international stories making headlines.
Part of ORC's success story is that the majority of the region's established artists were promoted by the station, hence their popularity and fame in Namibia. "Unlike other commercial radio stations in Namibia, we don't shy away from playing music by upcoming artists, or giving them a platform to promote themselves. We also play music from other SADC countries including international classics," he says
In addition, the community radio station provides cost effective service to the unemployed, elderly and the vulnerable in the Ohangwena community. "People who are seeking jobs, instead of taking a taxi to Ondangwa or Oshakati or even here in the Ohangwena region, can always come to our station and drop a note for our classified section that enjoys lower rates than other radio stations in Namibia, he says, adding that its advertising rates are pocket friendly for small business entrepreneurs and other business within the Ohangwena region.
Hard work, dedication and perseverance had paid off for the station to become where it is, and to earn respect. "We managed to lure the Ohangwena Regional Council, and other stakeholders, on board that includes MTC, Ministry of Education, Namcol, individual and small medium entrepreneurs among some of the regular sponsors," he says.
He emphasizes that volunteers and few dedicated comrades in the region are sustaining the station.
"For the Ohangwena Community Radio to penetrate the whole land of the brave, to be able to sustain itself financially and remain a community radio but for the whole nation," is Dumeni's vision for the station. However, he is asking the public, government and other related corporate world to come aboard for the benefit of the Ohangwena region, which is apparently the fastest growing region in Namibia.