New dawn at Radio Helderberg

Cathy Retief-Neil

Veteran journalist, travel author and radio presenter, Cathy Retief-Neil, is the new chairperson of the board of trustees of Radio Helderberg.

Ms Retief-Neil made herself available for election to the board at Radio Helderberg’s AGM on Thursday August 23, and at the first board meeting shortly thereafter, she was elected chairperson.

“The previous chairperson, Constantine Varley, who had given years of loyal service to Radio Helderberg resigned recently due to work pressures, and his deputy, Claire Stier, was elected as chairperson.

“Claire is expecting and she chose to step down, so when I was approached by a number of listeners to make myself available, I did so,” Ms Retief-Niel told Bolander.

She comes with a wealth of experience, having started doing a weekly news review at Radio Helderberg in 2001, while a sub-editor at Independent Newspapers.

In 2003 she became a reporter at the Helderberg Sun, the predecessor of Bolander, and that year she became a part time
presenter at the station, focusing on news-related programming.

Her great interest in, and fascination with, travel, saw the birth of her weekly travel programme, “Passport to the World” in 2006, which ran until 2017, when Ms Retief-Niel stepped down as presenter due to work pressures.

“I did continue to work behind the scenes,” she says, “writing ad copy and engaging in fund-raising activities, a key focus for the station.”

The station has a rich history with the Helderberg community, having gone on air at 6am on July 1 1995, broadcasting on the 95.9FM frequency from Southey Vines in Somerset West, with well-known DJ Martin Bailie behind the mic that morning.

Fast forward 23 years, and Radio Helderberg is a viable business, broadcasting on the 93.6FM frequency, with a more powerful transmitter, reaching Somerset West, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Nomzamo, Lwandle Eeerste River and Macassar. Other broadcast areas include select areas of the West Coast, select areas of Cape Town, Grabouw, Villiersdorp, Caledon, Hermanus, Gansbaai, Struisbaai and Bredasdorp.

A number of listeners, both local and overseas, also tune in via Radio Helderberg’s streaming service.

“It is easy to dismiss a community radio station as small fry,” Ms Retief-Neil says, “but Icasa (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) typically grants Radio Helderberg a five-year license, which is a vote of confidence that it is a well-run station.”

She emphasised that the relationship with the community is symbiotic. “Radio Helderberg is a true community station. It relies on the community for its support, and it, in turn puts a great deal back into the community.” The station is well-known for its dedication in participating in fund-raising activities for the benefit of local charities and NGOs.

In accordance with the provisions of its broadcast license, Radio Helderberg programming content is 40% English, 40% Afrikaans and 20% isiXhosa.

The other board members are Thys Lourens, Christalene Adams, Danie Pienaar, Sonia Leibrand, Etienne Piek and Lynette Liddle.