Airwave Apartheid on Late Portuguese Colonialism: The Native Hour on Radio Club of Mozambique


Established in the early 1930s, the Radio Clube of Mozambique (RCP) become one of the major broadcasters in Africa during the 1950s (Barbosa, 1997). Transmissions started in 1932 targeted to the white settlers that lived in the colony ruled by Portugal in southeast Africa. Founded and managed by the colonial elite, at a time during which the Portuguese regime has no clear strategy regarding broadcasting to the Empire (Ribeiro, 2014), the RCP has a clear commercial vocation. Programmes were designed taking into account the need to attract advertisers and sponsors at a time during which the colonial regime seemed reluctant to invest in broadcasting.

Functioning as a symbol of colonial modernity for the Portuguese expats, the RCP had the ambition of becoming the major broadcaster in the Portuguese Empire. This was accomplished through the launch of an English channel (later on also in Afrikaans) that allowed the station to conquer a significant number of listeners in South Africa and to secure important advertising contracts from major American advertising agencies.

The revenue originating from the English transmissions allowed the RCP to significantly expand its coverage of Mozambique via medium and shortwave transmitters. However, broadcasts only took place in Portuguese language, thus creating a radio apartheid between the white settlers and the local populations. As the paper will demonstrate, the broadcasts in Mozambican languages, Ronga and Shangan, only started in 1958 when the RCP launched a programme entitled “Native Hour”. Producers and presenters of “Native Hour” were recruited among the local population that, besides the speaking Mozambican languages, also mastered Portuguese and thus belonged to a segment of the population that the colonial regime labelled as “assimilated” (assimilados), i.e. those who had reached a level of “civilization” through the adoption of Portuguese language and culture.

Based on written documents and oral interviews with listeners and announcers of “Native Hour”, this paper will reconstruct the content of the broadcasts and its impact among the population resident in Mozambique in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It will also demonstrate how the success of the programme led to the creation of a radio channel entirely spoken in Mozambican languages that would become a major propaganda weapon used by the Portuguese State to disseminate colonial propaganda during the war for independence that started in 1964.