Amateur Radio is the greatest of all scientific hobbies

Updated 6 January 2015

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The South African Radio League is the National Body for Amateur Radio in South Africa and a member of the International Amateur Radio Union. Both organisations were  founded in 1925 and have a proud history of supporting communication science and technology and its continuous development. Today Amateur Radio is the greatest of all scientific hobbies. 

NEWS RELEASE  6 January 2015

For Immediate Release

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 High res pic of Theunis Potgieter download here


For Immediate Release

6 January 2015 

SA Radio League launched its 90th anniversary celebration in Port Elizabeth where radio began 

The South African Radio League, the national body for amateur radio in South Africa, celebrates its 90th anniversary this year with the use of a special callsign ZS90SARL.  The special callsign was inaugurated in Port Elizabeth where the first radio experimentation took place, close on the heels of Marconi’s first radio signals which heralded  in the new world of communication.

Port Elizabeth Radio Amateur, Theunis Potgieter, whose own callsign is ZS2EC was the first amateur radio station to use the special callsign.

“It is fitting that the first transmission of ZS90SARL was made from Port Elizabeth as it was there that the first radio contact in South Africa was established”, said SARL president, Geoff Levey.  

It was Edward Alfred Jennings, a telephone technician in the city who through experimentation to improve the performance of the telephone mouth piece detected its coherer properties. He also noticed that the electric tram passing his house a little distance away caused crackling. Later that year, it 1896, he carried out an ambitious experiment to send signals between his house in Sherlock Street to a primitive receiving station at Cooper‘s Kloof nearly a kilometre away.  A flag would be hoisted if his signals were received and indeed they were.  His first public demonstration of “wireless” as it was referred to in those early days   was  when in  1898 he sent messages wirelessly from the steps of the  Port Elizabeth city hall to Bird Island just off the Port Elizabeth coast. His initiatives were however not appreciated. Requests for funding to develop radio further was dismissed. A year later whilst discussing the question of radio in the Cape Parliament the then Prime Minister. John X Merriman said: “life is troublesome enough with ordinary telegrams, with   wireless telegraphy it will be unbearable”.

While amateur radio was part of the wireless scene in South Africa over a century ago, the South African Radio League (SARL) celebrates its ninetieth anniversary this year which makes it one of the oldest associations of radio amateurs in the world, close on the heels of the American Radio League, the Wireless Society of Austria and the Radio Society of Great Britain who have recently celebrated their centenary.

It was in 1909 that John Streeter, a Cape Town Experimenter first became interested in radio work but owing to very unfavourable letters from the Postmaster General of the time, it was considered advisable to lay low and it was not until 1919 that a fresh start was made with a crystal set and spark transmitter.

In October 1920 the Radio Society of South Africa was formed by John Streeter. The South African Radio Relay League was founded in May 1925 by Raymond Coombes He was the Honorary Organising Secretary till 1936. Joseph White was elected as the first President and John Streeter as the Vice President. In later years the word relay was dropped and the organisation became known as the South African Radio League


Besides radio amateurs being good ambassadors for South Africa, the SARL is also providing community services through its emergency communication division, HAMNET. HAMNET supports sporting events with communication and works closely with other disaster relief agencies.  On 28 December HAMNET was involved in three mountain rescue operation in the Western Cape.


The SARL will be holding various events to celebrate its 90th anniversary. For more about amateur radio and the SARL visit

For more information on Amateur Radio visit or call 011 675 2393 or email


Issued on behalf of the South African Radio League by Hans van de Groenendaal. Tel 082 781 4631.