, 14 July, 2020 / 10:30 PM
Ardent listeners of Radio Veritas, the only Catholic radio in South Africa, are being treated to hours of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) content following a temporary interruption of the radio station’s normal programming after its manager tested positive for COVID-19.
In a communique on its official Facebook page, the radio station announced the unfortunate week-long interruption in programming to allow for a safe resumption of broadcasting.
“It is with regret that we announce that we will not have normal programming from Monday (July 13) to Sunday (July 19) next week as our station Manager, Khanya Litabe has tested positive for COVID-19,” the leadership of Radio Veritas announced in a Facebook post Sunday, July 12.
“The studios and offices will be closed for a deep cleaning next week. We will be streaming EWTN and look forward to being back with you with normal programming on Monday, July 20. Please Keep Khanya, his family and Radio Veritas in Prayers,” the leadership of the Johannesburg-based Catholic radio added.
In an interview with ACI Africa Tuesday, July 14, Olinda Orlando, the spokesperson of the 21-year-old Catholic radio station expressed gratitude to the radio station’s passionate followers who she said had continued to send the radio station goodwill messages.
“From the overwhelming number of mails, phone calls, WhatsApp and mobile phone messages we have received, our listeners have been very kind and completely understanding of the situation,” she said, and added, “We are very grateful for their wonderful, caring and generous support in this difficult time.”
Mrs. Orlando who is the Deputy Director and Creative Director of Programming at Radio Veritas said that the management of the radio station was monitoring the progress of its 10-member staff who had been told to self-isolate in their homes.
“We have closed the building for deep cleansing and asked the staff to remain at home for a week. We have requested staff to inform us if any have symptoms during this week so they can see a doctor and be tested and other staff members can be informed,” she said.
As for Mr. Litabe who has grown through the ranks from an intern at the radio station to the station’s manager, Mrs. Orlando said he was recuperating in quarantine.
“We are broadcasting EWTN 24/7 and of course keeping our listeners informed of the situation and Khanya’s progress via Facebook and Twitter and replying to all messages we receive,” said Mrs. Orlando.
She added, “Khanya is doing well; it appears he has a mild case of COVID-19, for which, of course, we are all deeply grateful, as he is a much loved and vital member of the team.”
The Creative Director at Radio Veritas shared with ACI Africa that prior to the suspension of normal programming at the station, staff at the station had shared responsibilities when the station’s manager fell sick.
“We have a very committed and generous staff, who have all very kindly offered to assist by taking on extra duties. We are very grateful for them and their generosity during this time. They are all very well at present,” said Mrs. Orlando.
“Tiiso Mosoeu, our 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. presenter, very kindly stood in for Khanya Litabe and Colin Yorke, the morning show hosts last week and will do so from next again, until they are back at work. Colin Yorke has gone into quarantine for two weeks, but has no symptoms, as have none of the other staff,” she said.
To ensure safety at the workplace once normal operations resume, the station will maintain stringent measures that have been put in place by the Government to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“We will continue to do what we have done since the COVID-19 lockdown in March, which is observing all Government protocols,” says Orlando.
The station, she says, has been providing masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes, and sanitizers for every staff member’s office and studio, as well as at the entrances and exits of the building.
Additionally, the leadership of the station has ensured that all studio equipment is sanitized before and after use, temperature checks are conducted on everyone coming into the offices and studios, and also that physical distancing is observed.
“This was done before we had a staff member test positive and will continue in future as well,” says the radio station’s official.
The story of Radio Veritas, founded in 1998 by the Dominican Priest (OP), Fr. Emil Blaser with the blessing of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), is a story of hard work, according to Mrs. Orlando who has worked at the station for years.
“The Radio Veritas story is one of resilience, hard work and above all the faith and optimism of the founder Fr. Emil Blaser, who never gave up trying to get the station on the air and keeping it there over the past 21 years,” she says.
Hinting on the sources of funds for the radio station. Mrs. Orlando says, “We are supported entirely by the generosity of Catholic monthly donors and other Catholics and organizations who assist with once off donations, as well as fund raising activities held by the station. We also have a small amount of advertising.”
The radio station, one of the biggest in the Southern African country and the only one carrying Catholic content, broadcasts 24 hours a day in English, Zulu, Sesotho, and Portuguese.
The station has grown over the years as an independent media channel, airing content that is generated by its team of qualified producers and presenters.
Until the temporary suspension owing to the COVID-19 scare, the station aired local programs during the day and allocated EWTN content for overnight.
The radio’s programming is Catholic, with daily Mass and devotions such as the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy, news, views, interviews, Scripture, Catechetics, Spirituality, social teachings of the Church and programs for youth and children.
“We have also produced many series and documentaries and live streamed many South African Catholic events, such as the beatification of Blessed Benedict Daswa, episcopal installations among others,” says the station’s Creative Director.
She adds, “Before COVID-19, we streamed Sunday Mass live from a different parish each month.”
Radio is considered a special form of media especially during the isolation that comes with restrictions that have been put in place by Governments across the world to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the media practitioner observes.
“Radio is very important during this time,” she says, and adds, “The Lockdown has engendered feelings of isolation, anxiety and loss. People feel alone and radio can help to mitigate these feelings, especially when they hear others sharing their experiences of these stresses and what they are doing to raise their spirits. Radio takes away the sense of isolation.”
Catholic Radio, she says, has come strongly to fill the gaps during suspension of public worship in many countries.
“With the lockdown, people have been unable to attend Mass, and are very grateful to listen to a live Mass every day streamed on air,” Mrs. Orlando says, adding that people have found comfort in being able to send in prayer requests and interact with the community through radio air waves.
“We have had many messages of gratitude and stories of people feeling uplifted, comforted by and grateful for our Masses and programs. Radio is playing a great role in keeping people informed, inspired and united during this pandemic,” says Mrs. Orlando.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
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