A Sign of the Times- South Africa Cancels 2,100 Amateur Radio Licenses

SARL.jpegI was talking with some like-minded friends at a local Hamfest recently, drifting conversations between topics as is the standard when catching up. We started talking about Hams in Venezuela, what can be implied by what they don’t say, Cuba and the new restrictions the government has placed on its amateurs, and finally, just a tad bit on clandestine radio operations. This morning this story came across by usual news blotter and it’s disturbing to say the least.

Usually during severe government instability with a coming crackdown, Amateur Radio licenses are one of the first things to get pulled- the narrative must be controlled, with any potential communications between dissident groups being cut. The previous amateur allotments are then heavily monitored for traffic by anyone other than ‘authorized users’. Now to what degree the repression can be maintained is anyone’s guess. But when the president of your nation is making statements like this, it’s time to kit up.

According to the article, the licenses were cancelled due to “non-payment of license fees“. Unlike here in the US, South Africa requires an annual renewal. However what’s left out is the question of whether or not the trust holders were actually notified or if the official statement can even be taken at face value. My guess would be no. The article may have indicated that the government regulating agency attempted to notify those delinquent on their fees, but it would not surprise me in the least if those notices were never sent out, possibly even pre-selecting potential dissidents for cancellation to have them call the offices and complain just to map out the dedicated (because governments never do that, do they?).

But that’s South Africa- we’d never have problems like this here, right?


50 thoughts on “A Sign of the Times- South Africa Cancels 2,100 Amateur Radio Licenses

  1. So, what is the contingency for a local institution of the same? I guess the short answer is; That’s the contents of this site. But specifically, how does one counter the fact that the institution that has revoked their permission to operate, also knows where they live, quite literally.

      1. Agreed.I was just thinking that I don’t want them to come looking for my shiny new radio to confiscate…
        I supposed they can have the Baofeng…

        Hmmmm, practice, practice, practice and use what’s available. Seems that’s a theme I a blog I follow.

  2. Joseph Plumb Martin

    Lots of info on clandestine antennas, find books and practice building them and using them. QRP radios today are very small and use little power. Easily powered from small 12 volt battery and recharged with solar. I have an Elecraft KX3 and have talked all around the country with a small tactical dipole made by Chameleon Antennas. I can fit everything in a small pack or even my cargo pockets. The Elecraft KX2 is even smaller. Like NC Scout says it is the skill. Also it is very easy to cache a QRP radio. Right now nobody ie govt is looking for HF operators. They look at cellphones. I doubt they are equipped to located HF radio transmissions. With the bounce and ground wave locating HF transmitters is not easy.

  3. B Woodman

    Thoughts….Similar to contingency plans for weapons confiscation.
    Have multiple radios and antennas (etc), purchased with cash, untraced, un”registered”, set aside and cached elsewhere than your usual operating station. Operate digital QRP (just learning about and starting to set up myself).
    I have a feeling that attempting to control and stamp out radio operators would be as difficult as attempting to control and stamp out gun owners and makers. There’s just too much knowledge and material out there.
    And licenses? “We don’ neeed no stenkin’ licenses”.

      1. Joseph Plumb Martin

        Absolutely. NC Scout is correct. The amateur radio operators are very self policing. They will inform you that you are talking outside your allotted frequency due to your class license. You need a call sign to practice. Lots of amateur radio operators will immediately look up your call on QRZ as soon as you start a QSO. You cannot practice on the air without a license. No excuse you need at least a General license. Extra is better. Once you get at least the General you can then become eligible to join MARS and get a MARS call sign. That gives you additional privileges to go outside the amateur bands and into the military frequencies. There are lots of daily nests and exercises on MARS also the messages are encrypted.

      2. Its not just any of that (although I agree 100% and then some).

        I started to add a clause at the tail of this post about the ‘don’t need no license’ crowd- but I wanted them to come out of the woodwork.


        Oh and just so it’s explicit- the channelized license-free stuff is stupid-easy pickings, especially for the morons who think it’s all plug n’ play vs someone who A) knows what they’re doing and B) are coming to take your stuff whether you consent or not.

      3. B Woodman

        Didn’t mean to step on toes.
        I guess I didn’t express my train of thought properly in the comments.
        Yes, I have a license, just tested and upgraded to General. Licensure, for the most part, is good.
        I was thinking that when/if Teh Gooberment started to go after licensed amateur radio operators (forfeiture of license, seizure of equipment, etc), will you seek permission from “the masters” to operate your radio? See also your scenario “Radio Question #3” of 29 March.

      4. Ok- I’ve preempted the usual ‘I don’t need no license’ argument that comes from the idiot crowd.

        As for post-shutdown- yes, I concur- the skills don’t go away. But skills are learned and earned.


      5. B Woodman

        And to clarify part of my original comment above……
        “Multiple radios and antennas”……
        Use and rotate, but have at least one stashed away against possible dystopia.
        Do you have only one gun?

  4. Cavguy

    NCScout, to keep you updated I picked up a used FT897 at my local ham fest Saturday. Had the tuner with it and some other stuff as well. Got all the stuff to cut and put up a antenna . So time to get serious about General. Thanks for the information here. Any tips on the FT? Oh a local ham will program it for me licking split too.

    1. Don’t bother with internal batteries- they’re expensive and don’t last long. The internal power supply is a better addition. Make sure you pick up the side-mount tuner as well.

      One other thing to get is a MiniProSC soundcard for running digital.

      1. B Woodman

        I looked up the ZLP MiniProSC (Sound Card), only about $80. (g4zlp.co.uk) Not bad.
        ZLP also has a MiniProData (minus the SC Sound Card), only $40.
        Now I need to continue educating myself to know which one I need to go with what equipment I have.

  5. S6cnrdude

    Thanks NC Scout for watching all that is happening around us. And there is a lot at the moment to watch.
    The “commex” we did a few weeks ago gives many things to consider as we prepare for what I think is close, whatever form it takes).
    One observation. During Matthew which where I live took a direct hit and what is on the horizon may play in a similar fashion in some other “emergency”: the 2 meter repeaters could be used but were mostly used for ARES activities. HF was in play but I would think one would NOT want some huge beam sticking up in the air saying come and find me (depending on how things unravel). Mostly, I just listened: 2 meter linked systems, hurricane watch net freqs, and of course scanning. BTW, I did not have power for about 30 hours – good training. One street over from me did not have power for 4 days. We were fortunate (blessed).
    Thanks again!!

  6. Doc

    Hey speaking of a grid down scenario (had a dream about it last night), any recommendations on a solar charger, and what method can I use to charge up my 12v SLA???

    I wondered about this in my dream. If we can’t power our radio’s….. Hmmm.


      1. Mine is actually the large one- but I’d love to get my hands on that smaller one (didn’t know it existed until just now).

        I’m LONG overdue for a scrounging trip to Harbor Freight.

      2. bd

        I’ve been looking for some panels and been meaning to make the same trip. Good to know I wasn’t completely off base for a decent panel.

  7. Russ

    I am so far behind the curve on this but fortunately I have a couple of resources to help get me up to speed. I just had not fully taken in the gravity of my situation until now. Thank you.

    For others similarly on the fence as I had been, take this in. I have real tried and true skills and few thing hit my fear button any more. This has.

    There is a thing taught to me long ago called the ‘Great Unknown’. It’s everything I don’t know. It can be stuff that peace and prosperity allow time to schedule and acquire by gift of time. Now, let’s look at the proverbial shtf. I get it, I have no technical communication skills or effective communications gear, Mea Culpa- tough shit. I have other stuff, but so what as of right now. I have to fold into the immediate ‘Great Unknown’ a rapidly and expanding list of …assumptions I can no longer make… because there is an ‘unknown’ out there with, I must assume, effective communications that I and mine don’t have. This is a level of STRESS I really don’t want to contend with because of other STRESSES I must contend with but contend with it in the form of multiple assumptions I can no longer make, I must. They are like road blocks to action and they will kill me if I’m not just plain ass lucky. My plan just got blown to shit.

    I have used the first person to try to give something back by bending the knee, If this is you…consider ‘I’ to be ‘your name here’.

    Go to the ‘kit up’ link above. If that doesn’t move you. Then may God bless you and keep you and yours safe.

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  9. B Woodman

    Speaking of……
    What is the current status of the CTX-10 QRP radio?
    Ever since you posted about it back in Oct 2016, I’ve been trying to follow it through Teh Interwebz, and every site I look at, all I see is the same cut-and-paste write up from back then, with the disclaimer at the bottom, “Don’t buy. Don’t sell. Not yet approved by the FCC. Availability estimated early 2017”.
    Any further news or information? Good or bad?

  10. B Woodman

    Copied this from WRSA comments……much ado about nothing???
    Big Sam | April 27, 2017 at 08:33 | Reply
    This is the usual SA annual license clean up.
    The fee in US $ is under $10/year or $40/Five-Years
    Typically each year 800-2000 SA Radio Amateurs do not renew. Various reasons, including death (SK in radio talk) or infirmness, leaving the hobby or administrative sloth.
    You can check out http://www.n0hr.com/ham_radio_population.htm for an interesting listing of the numbers of hams per country (just the top 100).
    Back to South Africa the purge happens periodically over the years and is only a bit special this time because the count is higher than typical.

    1. Ok so….

      1. This comment recognizes the number is abnormal.

      2. This comment fails to recognize the other circumstances currently in play.

  11. n2382

    I believe the capability to utilize Olivia likely underestimated. The small bandwidth alone even minus the other features makes it superior to CW when going the long haul on little power, I’ll repeat, little power. For strategic comms, text is often superior to voice for the history it provides.
    My thoughts.

  12. Strelnikov

    Let me guess. The licensees were either exclusively or predominately white.

    Very ominous in conjunction with the ongoing program to disarm the remaining white populace.

  13. old grey guy

    A number of years ago I had the opportunity to talk to a VERY high up FCC official at an APCO conference. We were talking bout H.F. ham radio problems. He said that the FCC operated a WORLD WIDE H.F. direction finding network. I asked if pushed, how close could he D.F. He just smiled and said ” at least into the neighborhood”. So……..if they can hear you, they can find you. Licensed 58 years.

    1. B Woodman

      All the better to have a manpack portable/mobile QRP setup.
      Read Julian White OH8STN’s site, survivaltechnology dot net (Survival Tech Nord).
      He operates and blogs from the Arctic Circle – or close enough at makes no difference.

  14. n2382

    OGG: There are a host of LPI methodologies available to the knowledgeable Amateur operator, from EME, meteor scatter, short duration burst, and of course the almost illegal spread spectrum which if one were operating a covert station illegally, wouldn’t seem to be much of an issue. Combining LPI methodologies makes the task exceedingly difficult.

    Highly directional short duration UHF or SHF signals, including modulated IR laser, are almost impossible to detect which is why such methodologies are favored by clandestine intelligence services for agent/handler communications. Dead drops are certainly a low tech method of last choice useful primarily for the exchange of physical items (such as currency or microfilm) and if compromised point a red arrow back to both parties of the exchange. By separating the agent from the handler via an electronic link, it is much harder to compromise both parties.

    I also opine the larger threat for signal localizaiton would be from NSA engineers, not the financially crippled FCC.

    1. I agree. A good while back I wrote a bit about the utility of directional VHF/UHF methods and alternative modulation.

      Of course, that requires more than a Baofeng in a bag. 🙂

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  16. Radar

    Haha, quite the chest puffery from the “I have license” crowd to those who do not. Bleh. Like prostitutes staking out their corner in Harlem.

    1. Interesting. One must do what to gain a skill? Oh that’s right, do it.

      And how do you go about doing that? By learning it- which requires a bit of work. I would suspect someone addressing me using a public school system email address would understand this concept, as well as refrain from potentially defamatory innuendo.

      But then again perhaps there’s no litmus test in your ISD. Oh and don’t worry- I won’t be an ass and out you, even though I found your name and where you work.

      Read the comment policy page.

  17. nick flandrey

    I think the biggest mistake some people make is thinking that radio is easy.

    Would anyone anywhere suggest you could buy a pistol, pull it out of the box occasionally to look at it, then put it back, and expect it to be useful when you really need it?

    No, the advice is universally to get one that meets your needs, get training with it, and then PRACTICE with it.

    Radio comms are the same thing. You need training and practice.


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