100 Years of Radio in South Africa


A century up: The marvellous medium of radio turns 100 today. Quite a glorious and gigantic moment in the annals of broadcasting in the country!

When radio emerged in 1923, our forebears would have, understandably, not have contemplated the impact of the “theatre of the mind” platform on generations to follow. Radio has and continues to make a wonderful tangible difference in the lives of all South Africans whether in the realm of information, education, entertainment and/or development. The amazing attributes of the medium make it most attractive and appealing.  The onset of democracy in the country provided a fabulous fillip for the growth of radio across the land – our iconic Nelson Mandela would not have had it any other way. It is laudable of the regulator that it has sought to cater for the needs of citizens in every nook and corner of the country be it in terms of community, public or commercial broadcasting. The vitality and vibrancy of the radio environment is crucial.

Through the decades, we’ve had a plethora of stations which have generated numerous fond memories for women and men in South Africa. They’ve been enticed by superb shows, enchanted by on-air personalities, and enthralled by beautiful music. In short, radio has been a stellar source of jolly good times.

On a personal level, radio captivated and caressed me from a very tender age. Affectionately dubbed the ‘wireless’, it became a close friend. Apart from be-friending those on-air, I made countless number of friends in the community. My close association with the charming medium, in various capacities, enabled such fantastic connection. 

Let’s not doubt the longevity of radio: it is here to stay, providing curated content, constant companionship, and cosy comfort. The future for the medium is bright. We must long enjoy its power and beauty.

Apart from the My Radio Memory legacy book, a string of exciting events and activities will make the centennial celebrations over the next year truly memorable.

Here’s to the gift of radio for the next century!

Adv Robin Sewlal

December 18, 2023

2023 is a celebratory year for the charming medium in the country. A century ago, radio broadcasts commenced in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. This form of broadcasting developed through the years albeit not under ideal conditions. With the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, liberalisation of the airwaves became a priority. The sector transformed to the extent that South Africa can now boast of a three-tier system of broadcasting.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has licensed close to 300 community radio stations. There are 19 public stations under the banner of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and 21 commercial services. The listener enjoys diversity on the dial. Millions tune in daily to a wide variety of shows in their mother-tongue language.

Being a momentous occasion, a series of activities and events are being planned. A landmark project in celebration of the centennial year for the medium is a book titled “My Radio Memory”. In 2022, Radiocracy, as the publisher, invited listeners from throughout South Africa to contribute their stories on the attraction and appeal of radio ie the ‘love affair’ with the cosy companion. The legacy publication consists of:     

♦ 100 listener contributions 

♦ Articles on past stations 

♦ 100 facts about radio

♦ ‘This Day in History’ 

♦ Old radio adverts

♦ Songs about radio 

♦ 100-year-old individuals & entities

♦ Smart radio quotes.

The collector’s item is edited by Robin Sewlal, and seasoned broadcaster David Gresham has penned the Foreword.

Coming soon!

Watch this space for the exciting announcement of the release and availability of “My Radio Memory”.

The book can be pre-ordered by emailing MyRadioMemory@radiocracy.co.za

Every person who purchases a copy of the legacy book “My Radio Memory” will receive a complimentary digital copy of “Reflections of the South African Media: 1994-2019” 

Proceeds from the sales of “My Radio Memory” will go toward the activation and sustainability of the Radiocracy Community Outreach Programme (RCOP) and Quest for Literacy Lounge.  

Memories are special moments that tell our story – unknown