About Radio Bantu

In the 1960s the South African Broadcasting Corporation launched Radio Bantu as a fully-fledged station for African listeners in their different languages. Zulu was the first language used on the radio station. It was soon followed by the other vernacular languages. Intended to operate as the apartheid state’s propaganda channel, vernacular radio came to find resonance among millions of African listeners.

On January 1, 1962, the SABC introduced a high frequency modulation system, a breakthrough that marked the birth of FM radio and 12-hour mass-based broadcasting that involved 12 languages -Zulu, Xhosa, Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga and Venda. Thanks to the wireless’s immediacy, accessibility, affordability and portability, almost overnight Radio Bantu became the mainstay of black popular culture.

That was the beginning of Radio Sesotho (1/1/1962) (now Lesedi FM 1996), Radio Zulu (1/1/1962) (Ukhozi FM), Radio Setswana (1/6/1962)

(Motsweding FM), Radio Lebowa (1/6/1962) (Thobela FM), Radio Tsonga (1/2/1965) (Munghana Lonene), Radio Venda (1/2/1965) (Phala Phala FM), Radio Swazi (1982) (Ligwalagwala FM), Radio Ndebele (16/3/1983) (lkwekwezi FM) and Radio Xhosa (1966) (Umhlobo Wenene). All the radio stations changed to their current status in 1996.

The current regional radio stations have its foundations in Radio Bantu. Very little of Radio Bantu content has been preserved. The SABC Radio Archives holds approximately 40 Radio Bantu programs, of which the earliest dates to somewhere in 1960, and which are mainly radio dramas. A concerted effort is being made to get the collection back into the SABC. The regional archivists will try to source and search for this material.