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Iono - Behind the Bulletins

Week in Review - 16 December 2017

There was massive concern in the fishing industry as it was revealed that there would be a total ban on the harvesting of pilchards for the next three years with industry bodies scrambling to come up with ideas and workable solutions to avoid huge job losses. It was reported that Namibia economy went further into recession in the third quarter of the year and that economic growth in the country would likely be in the negative for 2017 but according to the IMF at least we should experience a rebound in 2018 with the organisation predicting growth of about 4 percent for the year. The country was also granted a N$ 2 billion loan from the African Development Bank which will be spent on upgrading a 210 km stretch of railway in the west of the country as well as completing a section of the new Windhoek / Hosea Kutako International Airport road.
 
In South Africa there was panic as it was reported that the Presidency had started work on codifying regulations for a state of emergency, the report was later denied but it was just the start of a bad week for the country's highest office as a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court ruled that Zuma was “unreasonable” in his attempt to stop the release of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report, ordering that he institute a commission of enquiry into state capture within 30 days and that he was personally liable for the costs of his legal challenge. Religious leaders called on the South African government to sever ties with Israel and to downgrade the Israeli embassy in South Africa. South Africa also once again experienced first hand just how destructive the weather can be as what has been described as a tornado tore through the Midvaal municipality damaging houses in the Vaal Marina and a suburb called Mamello.
 
Looking at Africa, Burundi's government launched a fund raising drive for elections in 2020 that they said was voluntary but which people can only opt of out by explaining in writing why they do not wish to contribute and activists say will most definitely be mandatory, meanwhile the country's President, Pierre Nkurunziza, launched a campaign to promote changing the constitution – a move which would allow him to serve another two seven-year terms from 2020. It wasn't a good week for European countries in Africa as they were accused of being complicit in grave human rights violations in Libya, while a new report by a US based law firm claims that French officials were complicit in the 1994 genocide of Rwanda's Tutsi minority. Somalia was once again the scene of much death and destruction as a journalist was killed by a car bomb in the capital on Monday and the later in the week at least 13 people were killed and more than 15 injured when an al-Shabab suicide bomber targeted a police academy where special drills were busy taking place. 
 
US President Donald Trumps announcement last week that his country would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was still making waves as Turkey's president sought support from leaders of Muslim nations to join him in declaring Jerusalem as the 'occupied capital of the Palestinian state', while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the US had disqualified itself from future Israel-Palestine peace talks after proving its “bias in favour of Israel”. Iran was hit by another earthquake, more of California burnt to the ground as crews continued battling run-away wildfires that have destroyed over 1000 km2 of land, and for the second year in a row the number of journalists imprisoned for their work hit a record high.
 
There were quite a few good stories though as the World Bank announced that after 2019 it would no longer fund upstream oil and gas projects, the Pentagon went against Donald Trumps order and said transgender troops would be allowed to enlist in the military from January 1st 2018, Australia implemented new laws that will prevent convicted peadophiles from travelling overseas, and New Zealand got one step closer to passing a law to allow voluntary euthanasia.

Be mindful when shopping online

The year 2017 was not short of challenges, least of all the state of the Namibian economy which cascaded downwards causing a major tightening of the belt by businesses in every industry. Employees felt this in their pockets.
 
Looking for bargains and the convenience thereof, many consumers will be doing their festive shopping for Christmas presents online. The last thing they can afford is to being scammed out of their money by fraudsters. Fraudsters are becoming very good at exploiting consumer behaviour online as buyers become more relaxed this time of the year.
 
It is therefore important to look at the risks involved in transacting with businesses on the internet. Most important is to establish the legitimacy of the website. A quick internet search to verify the history and credibility of the business can provide comfort that the site has not been reported previously for fraudulent activities. A tip here is to combine the name of the website with words like fraud, online fraud, theft, poor service, etc. when doing to research.
 
A technique used by fraudsters is to create imposter websites. This website looks exactly similar to another legitimate website but is actually a fake. Fraudsters use it to steal personal identification information and banking details like bank account numbers, PIN numbers, card numbers, expiry dates and CVV numbers. Fraudsters exploit this information to do card-not-present online transactions.
 
Fake websites may lure shoppers with promises of free vouchers, free gifts, add-ons like discounts on other products, and create a sense of urgency with soon to be expired special low prices or low stocks on very popular, high in demand and flavour-of-the-season items like toys.
 
Always make sure that the website shows “https” and a little padlock in the address bar as opposed to only “http”. A website without these may not be safe and fraudsters find it difficult to create “https” websites with the padlock. At the point of payment, again make sure that the padlock is there, if not, the website may not be safe. Always check on the payment system used and that it is a reputable one like MasterCard, Visa, etc.
 
It is always good to do some research on the product you want to buy, know the brand and the average price thereof. This may prevent you from falling for a scam by buying at very low bargain prices. If a price is too good to be true, it most probably is. Make sure what you are paying for and what is included and not included in the price. Additional hidden costs may be VAT, shipping, customs, clearance fees, etc. which can change a bargain into a very expensive item. Always check out the warranty and if it will be honoured by local authorized dealers in Namibia. If not, what will be your options? Therefor it is important to look at the website’s return policy in case the item is short of expectations and fell short of what was promised. Some may choose not to take back a product if it is not defective. The costs to return an item to a foreign country may be prohibitively expensive.
 
Finally, make sure that the limits on your cards are acceptable for your needs and if it is too high, rather lower it. This may limit your losses in the case of fraud on your card.
 
Remember, safe festive online transacting, but always caveat emptor, the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.
 
By Johnny Truter: Head of Forensic Services at Bank Windhoek

Week in Review - 09 December 2017

This week we learnt that Namibia is a tax haven, which came as a shock to many people, not least those of us who have tax deducted from our salaries each month. The Minister of Finance was also understandably upset by the development. It turns out that it was all semantics though and the EU doesn't actually see us as a tax haven but rather as a non-tax compliant country due to us not having signed off on four agreements that Minister Schlettwein stressed were unilaterally created by the EU. The head of the European Delegation later in the week stressed that they would do everything they could to resolve the issue and have Namibia de-listed. Still with that story, the Finance Minister from South Korea, which is also on the list, also criticized the EU saying that they may be infringing on countries' tax sovereignty.
 
Still in Namibia, the country signed two loans of N$ 1 billion each with the African Development Bank for education and agricultural projects, following a weekend of horror on Namibia's roads police were calling on the public to assist in the identification of 10 people who died in one accident and whose bodies were burnt beyond recognition, and in slightly better though not quite the news many were hoping for in time for the festive season, the Bank of Namibia chose to keep the Repo rate unchanged at 6.75%.
 
In South Africa some of the biggest news was the collapse of retail giant Steinhof amid allegations of “accounting irregularities” and the resignation of long-time CEO Marcus Jooste. Also in South Africa, the so-called 'Sugar Tax' was passed and is planned to come into effect on 1 April 2018 imposing a tax of 2.1 cents per gram of sugar on all sweetened drinks. Sticking with taxes it was reported that Cape Town household could soon be paying between R45 and R60 a month as part of a drought levy to shore up the city's finances and pay for planned drought relief measures, Johannesburg was battling an outbreak of Listeriosis – a severe form of food poisoning, and the country found out just how bad the literacy crisis is when it was revealed that 78% of grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning. About the only good news for the country was that the economy was said to have recorded growth of 2% in the third quarter of the year.
 
Looking to Africa the secessionist crisis in Cameroon is deepening, angry aids activists urged Western and Central Africa to step up the fight against the disease, and activists expressed their dismay that despite the “mega-crisis” of forced migration in the DRC international aid has been slow to materialize. In some good news Switzerland announced that it will return US$321 million is assets seized from the family of former military ruler Sani Abacha, and Zimbabwe unveiled a new budget that contained a raft of cost cutting measures as well as many business and investor friendly proposals including the removal of the Mugabe-era indigenisation  law.
 
Internationally there was outrage at US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his announcement that the US Embassy in the country would be moved to that city, the ex-President of Yemen was killed in the capital, further complicating and already complex war, Venezuela announced the creation of a new virtual currency, Honduras' President finally said that he was open to a review of the contested recent election, and Britain the the EU were said to have reached a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations.
 
In other news TIME magazine named The Silence Breakers, the individuals that helped give traction to the #MeToo campaign as its 'Person of the Year' for 2017, and Australia's parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage.