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Zambia – Radio Musi-O-Tunya “smokes and thunders”

Livingstone is a tourist city, situated in the southern part of Zambia, bordering Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. The city is associated with beautiful places of attraction such as the ‘mighty’ Victoria Falls, locally known as ‘Musi-O-Tunya’, which means ‘The smoke that thunders’.

Other places of attraction in Livingstone are Gorges, the National Parks, Helicopter adventure, the Crocodile farm; elephant rides, walking with the lion, water rafting, hotels and lodges etc., are also available. In the midst of such natural wonders is Radio Musi-O-Tunya that smokes and thunders.

Radio on the air

The story of Radio Musi-O-Tunya started unfolding in 2004, when its first transmission thundered in the ears of the people of Livingstone and the surrounding areas. The diocese of Livingstone being vast, the local bishop, Mons. Raymond Mpezele, in consultation with others, saw it fit to start a radio station to enhance evangelization and promote local culture in the diocese.
The man behind the establishment of Radio Musi-O-Tunya was Father Cletus Mwiila, a diocesan priest from Monze diocese. “I remembered very well when the bishop asked me to establish Radio Musi-O-Tunya. I was just coming from my studies in communications in Rome. It was an exciting experience, besides the difficulties”, said Fr. Mwiila.

Zambia,Radio_1408CH-2In a few weeks the Radio became popular. Livingstone town is surrounded by villages such as Mukuni, Musokotwane, Kasiya, Simonga to mention but a few. These villages became great fans of Radio Musi-O-Tunya, which broadcasts in their own languages (Lozi and Tonga).
The success, said Fr. Mwiila, was that the Radio brings out issues that concern the people’s social, economic, spiritual and political life. Some of the villages have listener groups of Radio Musi-O-Tunya; therefore, they provide regular feedback to the Radio station.
Radio Musi-O-Tunya ‘thunders’ out on a radius of 100 Kilometres and beyond; engaging about 200,000 people, the majority being in rural areas. Being a community Radio station dealing with community issues – the community has identified itself with Radio Musi-O-Tunya – the people normally say “Ki Radio ya sichaba”, (“it’s a Radio of the people”).
Being a community Radio station as normally classified, Radio Musi-O-Tunya has an advantage of broadcasting in three languages; English and two other local languages, Lozi, and Tonga – making it easy to disseminate information to different ethnic groups. The Radio operates from 0600 hours to 2400 hours. Radio Musi-O-Tunya has 20 listener groups comprising not less than 15 members in each group. Radio Musi-O-Tunya’s target audience is the Catholic faithful and general public.
Father Mwiila left in 2007 and Sr. Namasiku Mutonga Perpetua took over. She said: “Radio Musi-O-Tunya was established to enhance evangelization in the diocese of Livingstone, as the vision states; we offer a platform for integral evangelization, freedom of expression and information dissemination to the people of Livingstone and the surrounding areas. How the Radio station is doing this is through its mission that states: ‘we empower people with quality broadcasting in the areas of social, economic, spiritual and political competence for sustainable development in

Livingstone and the surrounding areas

It is not easy to run a Radio station in Africa; Sr. Namasiku comments: “It’s a well known fact that running a community Radio station in Africa, Zambia in particular, such as Radio Musi-O-Tunya, depending solely on paid staff alone is almost a nightmare. Involvement of community volunteers is always a better option. Because the revenue coming from the Radio station’s core business of airtime is minimum and cannot in anyway cover the expenditure of the Radio station, let alone pay workers’ salaries”.
Zambia,Radio_1408CH-4Even though Radio Musi-O-Tunya is located in the tourist capital, Livingstone is a small city with a small population where the majority live in a rural setup. Against this background, there are two commercial Radio stations in Livingstone which are community based. This altogether makes the competition to advertise to the same community, especially to business houses, stiff.
Sr. Namasiku continues: “For this reason Radio Musi-O-Tunya from its inception was established to be a community Radio station – since then, we have emphasized community involvement – and the Radio station’s majority work-force to come from the community with a few workers to run the daily operations”.
In all, Radio Musi-O-Tunya has twenty five community volunteers, who are presenters and producers. They take shifts from 0600 hours up to the close-down of the station at 2400 hours. In the schedule shift, some volunteers have two or three shifts in a week according to their classified sections, English, Lozi and Tonga.
Apart from that there are also other community volunteers known as discussants or human resource – these support particular educational programmes (broadcast weekly) on air in terms of discussions, skills and knowledge. These volunteers come to the Radio station once a week for discussions either in English, Lozi and Tonga respectively.
Other than having community volunteers, there are also associates; these are friends of Radio Musi-O-Tunya, who come to the Radio station to make their own programmes of interest, targeting a particular audience.
Above all, Radio Musi-O-Tunya has a ten-member board and within that board there are sub-committees such as administrative and public relations, finance, religious programmes, information technology and the programmes’ sub-committees. The sub-committees comprise the director of the radio, a board member, a staff member and one or two co-opted members from outside the board and management.
The religious programmers sub-committee ensures that the Catholic faithful, priests, sisters and the laity are fully involved in programming. During Lent and Christmas, for example, the religious programme sub-committee draws a timetable for the Lenten or Advent seasons for religious and parish houses and lay associations to present reflections on the Radio.

Zambia,Radio_1408CH-3One interesting experience is that all parishes take turns in the Sunday Mass. The Sunday Mass is recorded in the morning from a selected parish and is broadcast at 15.00 hours, on the same day.
Regarding sustainability, Radio Musi-O-Tunya sustains itself through its airtime, project proposals, writing, and through small established investment. Despite all these efforts being made, the Radio station’s income is too low compared to the expenditure. The big challenge of Radio Musi-O-Tunya is that of having insufficient funds to improve its operations.
About the future Sr. Namasiku said: “The future of Radio Musi-O-Tunya is still bright despite its limited resources. Our focus is on self-sustainability, for example, we wish to go into farming. In 2012, a local chief, chief Mukuni, offered 300 hectares of land (farm) to Radio Musi-O-Tunya. The farm is surrounded by three rivers and thus has plenty of water. Apart from that we desire to open a professional music recording studio for income-generating activities. We are sourcing for funds for these activities”. (N.M.P.)

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