Media marvel with a difference
When it comes to media studies, few in Botswana are equipped to match Kennedy Ramojela’s insight and experience.
Now a Lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB), the down-to-earth academic effortlessly mixes the books with the beats and is the brains behind popular cultural event, Taste of Africa.
As well as being a publisher, Ramojela also has close links to football giant’s, Gaborone United – the man really does get about!
His education has taken him around the world, including Columbia College in Chicago, where as an undergraduate he was part of the media club which hosted musical events featuring the likes of: Hugh Masekela, Mariam Makeba, Jamain Dupri, Dabrat and Celion Dion.
The Voice’s DANIEL CHIDA sat down with Ramojela to see how he manages it all…
With your experience in the media, what can you say about Media Freedom in Botswana?
Media Freedom in Botswana has been debated for many years now.
It is well known that at some point media freedom was compromised with some media practitioners jailed because of the content they put out about the Government.
This led to Parliament of Botswana approving the Media Practitioners Act (MPA) which was signed into law on the 22nd December 2008.
This law was controversial since media practitioners wanted to self-regulate.
Since its enactment, the MPA has not been made operational.
An attempt was made in 2009 by the then Minister of Science and Technology to establish the Council but the media fraternity had a reservation with people who were selected to lead the proposed Council.
The current Parliament is now reviewing the MPA and I would say the fraternity seems to be moving in the right direction.
What motivated you to pursue media studies, especially Television Production?
I studied Media and Broadcasting because it was very close to my heart.
For my Bachelor Degree, I studied Television Production and Broadcasting at Columbia College Chicago, USA, Master degree (Media Arts) at Emerson College, Boston, USA.
I then did Film and Broadcasting at the University of Southampton (UK) and read for my PhD in Media and Communication at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
I always had passion for media and creative since my high school era.
I was a member of a Drama group at school as well as in the Catholic Church under the Directorship of James Itireleng Mathokgwane and Motshereganyi Sefanyetso.
I got inspired to take this further hence I applied to study Film and Television in the United States of America.
University of Botswana (UB) has its own Radio, how is it doing?
It is true, UB, under Media Studies department, has its own online radio station which is doing well.
We have since acquired the services of Mrs Kelly Ramputswa-Tlale from Yarona FM to steer the ship.
We believe that her experience will bring changes since she was at the helm of a youthful radio station for many years.
Can that be used to come up with more online radio stations?
I hope BOCRA will open up to more online radio stations in the future.
Why do you think they’ve failed to take off locally so far?
Online radio stations are new to Botswana and many will rather choose traditional radios.
I think we need public education about these platforms; on the operations and how they can benefit the country.
Remember media outlets depend on advertisements and without them there is no how they can survive.
What are your views on the impact of social media on mainstream media?
Traditional media has no option but to adapt with new trends which is new media.
Social media is instant in delivering news hence people rely on it.
Research has shown that print media circulation is dropping globally.
Social media is today’s most transparent, engaging and interactive form of public relations.
It combines the true grit of real time content between the sender and receiver.
Younger people are more sensitive to information posted on social media, with the impact on them being twice as high as the impact on older people.
This group is the one that is used to the mainstream media.
Facebook alone reports that it has more than 500 million active users, 50 percent of whom log in everyday!
This alone forces the traditional media to align its operations and join social media to maximize on the profits.
Or indeed just to survive! Moving on, you must have been disappointed to be overlooked by Minister, Tumiso Rakgare for his Arts Council – did you guys talk on why you were snubbed?
This is very tricky one.
I wouldn’t want to say I was snubbed because I don’t know the criteria that was used.
I remember I applied to be a member of the Arts Council but I was not successful like many others who applied, maybe the ones who were selected are more qualified than me.
All I know is that Honourable Tumiso Rakgare had a team of experts who assessed the applicants and they had to pick the best candidates to represent the Creative Sector.
We did not talk about the Arts Council but we talk whenever we have a chance, on personal and professional level.
I have known him for many years before he became a Minister.
Let’s talk football. Tell us about your time with Gaborone United aka The Money Machine.
I had an amazing time at Gaborone United Sporting Club and treasure all the memories I created there.
I started as a Media Officer, where we won the BTC League for the first time in 19 years.
I then became Communications Manager where we commercialised GU.
We participated in CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, all these time I was travelling with the team updating our social media pages and website.
I lost Secretary General elections in 2015 but I still remained with the Reds.
In 2017, the team encountered problems and the elders committee had to take the leadership of the team as per the GU constitution.
One day in the early hours, I got a call from Tymon Katlholo requesting me to take over the Secretary General position until the team is stable.
I had to make sure the team was intact even when there was no money to pay players.
We stuck together as a committee, we faced the FIFA ban because some players took us to FIFA for none payment.
Fortunately we managed to raise P350, 000 to pay our debt to FIFA.
My stay at GU was good and bad, it wasn’t an easy ride but right now am happy that the team is doing well.
I took a back step from football because it will take all your time and less appreciation.
Why did you leave?
When I got into Holly Matrimony with Mercy Murc Ramojela, I had to make a choice between active football and family – and family comes first!
Well said. You also ran a magazine, what happened?
We had a weekly newspaper called Spotkick which focused on sports.
The newspaper did not do as well as anticipated and we had to move it to online.
There is no media outlet that can survive without advertisements and we found ourselves in that situation.
We had to face debts created under this newspaper.
Back to showbiz, how have your shows been doing?
Taste of Africa 2.0 will be held in Francistown on the 29th October at Riverside Deck Molapo.
I am very happy to announce that this time around we are bringing Mr Ringo Madlingozi from South Africa.
Ringo is a living legend that many elders can relate with his music; he can take you down memory lane with his tunes.
The last time he was in Botswana was in 2017 before he came a Member of South African Parliament under EFF.
Give us a taste of what the show is all about?
Taste of Africa is a show that brings Africans together to celebrate the cultures though food, music and travelling.
It’s a cultural exchange that encourages people to share notes about their cultural experiences and stay in Botswana.
We have a lot of local artists taking part in this event, especially those from Francistown and the surrounding areas.
We believe in giving local acts the chance to rub shoulders with very big artists like Ringo.
This is a motivation and personal development on its own.
What other events have you got in the pipeline?
We are working around the clock to have Taste of Africa 3.0 in Gauteng, South Africa before end of this year if not early next year.
Covid-19 and the lockdowns that accompanied the pandemic plunged many into debt, especially in the entertainment sector; how was it for you?
Covid-19 affected many sectors.
We had to cancel our show and this affected us badly since it was slated for the 25th April 2020 and the first lockdown started in March 2020.
You mentioned family comes first yet you are an extremely busy man – how do you balance business, work and family?
I have learnt to manage my time very well. There is time for family, events planning and work.
I make sure that I give 100 percent in everything that needs to be done.
Unfortunately my wife now works in Johannesburg and I am forced to travel to Jozi now and then if she doesn’t come home.
And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, how are you going to spend your Independence weekend?
Unfortunately there is no rest.
Taste of Africa 2.0 is in a few weeks and this long holiday we have to do activations in the North of Botswana, especially Francistown.