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Donations roll in to help community broadcasters rebuild

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Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has lauded pledges and donations to rebuild community radio stations that were vandalised during the spate of violent unrest and looting in SA.

The affected community radio stations, whose equipment was damaged or looted, include Alex FM, Ntokozo FM, Mams FM and Westside FM, notes the ministry.

“As the ministry of communications and digital technologies, and the custodian of broadcasting policy in the country, we acknowledge the contribution made by the public to rebuild these community radio stations, which play an important role in disseminating relevant and necessary information to listeners,” says Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Last week, telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) said the acts of violence, looting and arson in the country resulted in vandalism of network facilities and disruption of communication services.

Both Ndabeni-Abrahams and ICASA slammed the attacks on critical communications infrastructure, saying it as an infringement on the rights of others.

“Our resources are stretched already and the massive cost to replace infrastructure associated with rebuilding damaged infrastructure means the delivery of other services will be hampered. It will take many years before the destroyed public and business infrastructure can be rebuilt,” the minister continues.

Meanwhile, the department says it met with mobile operators to assess the nature of vandalism of network towers, adding that the purpose of the meeting was to explore collaborative efforts aimed at protecting communications infrastructure and deploying mop-up operations to affected areas.

The telecommunications sector has long been plagued by the destruction of network towers, resulting in operators incurring billions of rands in replacements costs.

“It is regrettable that much-needed network infrastructure is being destroyed. The country currently needs resilient and high-speed connectivity for every citizen, to enable them to participate meaningfully in the digital economy. Furthermore, mobile telephony is crucial in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” Ndabeni-Abrahams concludes.

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