The rise and rise of Harvest Radio

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harvestBy Mathabana Kotelo

MASERU — “A diamond goes through fire to be fine-tuned and shine the way it does, I also see my challenges as stepping stones to the next level in my life,” says Malichaba Lekhoaba, the founder and owner of Harvest FM.

Born and raised in Thaba Bosiu, Ntoetse Moshoeshoe now ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba was the first of five children.

Despite having always wanted a career as a paramedic, after high school she enrolled for a diploma in accounting studies.

She then jetted off to Australia to study towards a diploma in youth development, a Christian youth course at Tabor College.

While there she attended a presentation by HCJB World radio now HCJB Global on starting up Christian radio stations which gave rise to her vision of starting a Christian radio station locally.

Lekhoaba quickly dismissed the idea feeling that she was too young, inexperienced and financially unfit to take on what she felt was a massive project at the time.

“I had no idea of how a radio station was run, and had only ever seen the inside of a studio once on a primary school trip to Radio Lesotho” she says.

“However, the story of Moses in the Bible who, despite own protests of being unworthy, was sent to free the Israelites, became my motivation. Like Moses I also had to heed what I deemed God’s calling for me.”

Upon her return from overseas, in spite of not having any prior experience in broadcast media or running a business, Lekhoaba was determined to see her dream materialise.

“I did not write a business plan and approach banks for loans. I emailed the HCJB Global people and they put me in contact with the director in their Ghana office and they donated radio studio equipment.”

At the age of 29, armed with an office space, full radio equipment and a dream she sought to see came true, Lekhoaba thought the only thing she was missing was a team of staff and the wheels would be set in motion but fate had another course.

“I had the space and equipment but no source of finance. I had been financing everything from my own pocket from the little I made then as a bookkeeper for the Lesotho Teachers Association.”

Determined to see her plan through, she set out on a mission to seek donations from members of local churches, a move that was met with much resistance following the recent collapse of Christian radio TBN.

Refusing to let the financial obstacle in her way to stop her, Lekhoaba and three associates attended a course in Cape Town to receive training on broadcasting and running a radio station where Lekhoaba says she got to experience the technical side of radio for the first time.

In 2003, following a long process of recruiting and training presenters, Harvest FM was officially launched and started broadcasting shortly after.

The first year of operation was marred with many challenges as the radio station struggled to take flight and set itself apart as a Christian radio station.

“We were drowning in debt, barely managing to pay rent every month. All of our employees at the time were on volunteer basis.”

So severe were the pressures that came with running the station, says Lekhoaba, that she decided to resign from her job and manage Harvest radio full-time.

“It did not take long for the blessings to started pouring,” Lekhoaba says.

As luck would have it, Dr Roelf Peterson of Radio Pulpit, a major South African Christian radio, accepted an invitation to attend the station’s first year anniversary celebration and brought with him SABC’s Gospel Gold show to cover the event.

“It was an extremely proud moment for the station and me personally, for Harvest to be the first radio station locally to be
featured on SABC within only one year of operation.”

Radio Pulpit then took Harvest under its wing, training Lekhoaba on programming, managing finances and running the station.

They also trained presenters and paid off all the station’s debts, giving it a new lease on life.

Two years later Lekhoaba met her husband Adam Lekhoaba and was impressed by his business aptitude.

He joined Harvest Radio and on his recommendation, a marketing department was added to the station.

“All our programmes were Christian shows before. He helped us restructure the station programming and add news bulletins and current affairs shows to bring in income.”

Harvest Radio soared to new heights, becoming famous for allowing opposition parties a platform to express views and engage voters.

The station’s listenership leaped to an all-time high, earning them a PMR Africa Diamond Arrow award.

Tragedy struck in 2009 when Lekhoaba’s husband passed on, leaving her with two very young children, the youngest only six months old.

“It was a massive blow! I had lost someone who had become part of me after only a few years of marriage and was now faced with the responsibility of raising our children and running the station, all by myself.”

On the business front, notwithstanding the personal blow, Lekhoaba felt her husband had left her with a wealth of knowledge and expertise that would see her successfully running Harvest Radio into the award winning radio station it is today.

By her own admission, Lekhoaba is a naturally reserved person who enjoys travelling and cooking for her children when she is not hard at work.

Next month Harvest Radio, which now employs 15 full-time staff, will mark its tenth anniversary with a mega celebration at the Setsoto Stadium to celebrate ten years of success and growing from strength to strength amid many challenges.

On what is next for her, Lekhoaba says she is working on growing her brainchild Faith magazine and has her heart set on fulfilling her dream of building a fully fledged media centre with print, radio and television facilities.

Now in her forties and having met with many challenges in life, Lekhoaba says, “I have faced many challenges but as a Christian woman, I draw my strength and inspiration from God.”

 

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