Robbers hold presenter at gunpoint and steal studio equipment
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Johannesburg - West Rand community radio station Westside FM has been forced to rebuild again after the station was robbed of all computers and a presenter was held at gunpoint on Sunday.
This robbery happened as the station was still recovering from the looting and disruption that occurred during the civil unrest last month.
In the early hours on Tuesday, July 13, Westside FM, based at Kagiso Mall, was ransacked.
It was one of numerous community stations that were destroyed in the unrest,
For the founder of the station, Goodhope Ledwaba, this was a devastating blow for the mouthpiece of the West Rand community since 2013.
“It was terribly sad to see how our studios were looted and vital broadcast equipment either stolen or destroyed.
“It robbed our community of a voice as we had no means of delivering the programmes that are so important to our community,” Ledwaba said last month.
Following the looting, the community station, community members and members of the radio community, including HOT 102.7FM, gave Westside FM a helping hand to get it up-and-running again.
This included donations of sound cards, a computer, microphones, headphones and a computer monitor.
The community station was, however, struck with another devastating blow, announcing on Sunday that the station was robbed again in the early hours of the morning.
According to the station, five armed men entered the station and held a presenter at gunpoint before they allegedly stole all the station’s computers.
“This happens when we are busy recovering from the recent looting that we became a victim of losing all our studio equipment. We appeal to our community to help bring these criminals to book,” the station said on Facebook.
Ledwaba told The Star on Monday that after the looting, the station had been requesting that Kagiso Mall, where the station broadcasts from, to beef up their security because Westside FM wasn’t the only facility at the mall that was looted and destroyed.
“The mall has unarmed guards and there isn’t really strict security, so if people come with guns, there’s nothing they can do. They can’t defend themselves,” the founder said.
He added that he believed the station was robbed again because the community knew that security at the centre was not strict.
Ledwaba said that the armed robbers entered through a gate near the station that used to be locked at 5pm before the looting. However, since then, the gate was only allegedly closed with a piece of wire.
“It was the computers that were stolen and most of them were donated, so we are off air and back to square one again.
“We are battling to make ends meet and we are supposed to run adverts.
”This means that we have another loss of income,” the Westside FM founder said.
He added the male presenter who was held at gunpoint said he was “doing okay” but the station would organise counselling for him.
“I’m going to check up on him today but I’m organising counselling, but he said he was doing fine,” he said.
Ledwaba has called on Kagiso community members to help bring the criminals to book and come forward with any information they have on the robbery.
The station has also made an appeal to security companies that can assist the station with CCTV cameras and an electric fence.
The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has condemned the robbery, saying it was appalling that criminals were targeting a community asset that serves residents of Kagiso.
“The thugs targeted the community radio station and held a presenter at gunpoint as they ransacked valuables which include five full sets of desktop computers, on air and production personal computers, a speaker, and three headphones.
“This is the second robbery in weeks as Westside FM was one of five community radio stations that were looted during last month’s unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.”
Sanef said a case had been opened. It called on the SAPS to speedily investigate in order to ensure the arrests and prosecution of the “five thugs”.