Giving history a voice through radio

It is mostly thanks to Rhodes alum Angie Kapelianis that the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is available in transcript form. In 1998 Angie realised that only 52 of the radio stories on the TRC had been catalogued in the SABC Sound Archives, and thus began a year-long project to transcribe what was, in the final count, 900 cassette recordings of the proceedings. Using this rich archive, Angie and colleague Darren Taylor then scripted the six hour audio documentary South Africa’s human spirit: an oral memoir of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In 2000, Angie explained: “I just felt that we, as the radio journalists who had covered the Truth Commission … if we wanted to add value to what we had already done, it had to be based on sound. It had to be based on the people’s stories in their own voices and their own words…And so I suggested: ‘What about a CD?’ And one CD became a CD collection.” 

Angie Kapelianis attended Rhodes University in the 1980s. After a stint with the NBC in Namibia, she returned to South Africa, and joined the SABC. She has remained with the SABC ever since, initially as a radio journalist in the unsettled period before the 1994 elections, where her assignments included covering pre-election violence in Gauteng’s East Rand, ANC President Nelson Mandela’s election campaign, local government issues and political news & features. Already established as a radio journalist, in 1995 Angie was promoted to a senior role with the SABC, and it was during her five years in this position that she was present at and reported on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The transcription of the cassettes from the TRC constitute a labour of love and dedication to the stories of those whose voices had been previously unheard; Angie recalls that she and Darren Taylor commissioned pieces for and wrote the accompanying 36-page booklet, and compiled the detailed CD indexes. With the assistance of a technical producer and a sound engineer, more than 50 voices from the TRC were re-recorded in the studio. A year later, the mixed and mastered CD collection was released.   

In the years since this seminal project, Angie has moved through the echelons of the SABC, and is currently the National Radio Current Affairs Editor. In 2022 she was awarded a JMS50 Alumni Award, recognising her immeasurable contribution to the archive of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and her steadfast dedication to radio and audio news and current affairs.