Podcasts to Help You Understand South Africa

All set for podcasts | © Juja Han/Unsplash
All set for podcasts | © Juja Han/Unsplash
Photo of Andrew Thompson
Freelance Writer - Instagram.com/andrewthompsonsa31 December 2017

South Africa may have been a little slow on the uptake when it came to podcasts, but these days there’s a wide selection that is thoroughly entertaining and insightful.

If you’re looking to understand a bit more about South African history, food, culture, or even humour, these are some of the podcasts you should be listening to.


With crime dominating newspaper headlines since the dawn of democracy, it’s hardly surprising that a show like Alibi has taken the country’s podwaves by storm. Journalist Paul McNally takes you down a South African murder mystery some 23 years old, and introduces listeners to a character who has spent 17 years in prison for the crime he says he didn’t commit. Though comparisons to the breakout American hit Serial are unavoidable, this seven part show weaves in tragic tales of South Africa’s past and present in a thoroughly compelling manner.

A True Crime Story | Courtesy of Alibi

The Sobering

South African hip-hop is almost a genre on its own, and few podcasts take you as deep into it as The Sobering. Producer Javas Skolo and rapper Kitso Moremi conduct insightful interviews, play some of the best of South Africa’s hip-hop, and give you insight into the genre and culture that surrounds it.

Kiss and Tell

Visual artist Lady Skollie hosts a captivating podcast called Kiss and Tell that is an audio extension of her art. This means she delves deep into topics like sex, gender, feminism and politics, with her usual wit, insight and inspiring clarity. Though the show is no longer in production, with just one episode of this show easily accessible on the web, it’ll provide you with some insight into the artist’s mind, and South Africa’s current state of being.

Lady Skollie in her studio | © Lady Skollie. Courtesy of Tyburn Gallery. Photo by Anthea Pokroy.

First Person

Esteemed podcast and journalist duo Jayne Morgan and Marianne Thamm joined forces to ride the wave of gritty, authentic podcasts that deal with important topics in an enthralling narrative fashion. First Person is an expertly constructed show that proves the adage that everyone has a story, and at the same time offers fascinating insight into South Africa and its people.

Through the Cracks

South African journalist Mandy Weiner is another media personality who applied the Serial formula to an important South African story. In the four-part podcast Through the Cracks, Weiner digs deep into the story of Mbuyisa Makhubu, a young man captured in an iconic photograph during the 1976 Soweto Uprisings. It was a one-off show that, although formulaic, provides a gripping examination of that critical moment in South Africa’s history, and contextualises it with a modern day mystery.

The Hector Pietersen Memorial | ©Willem van Valkenburg/Flickr

Lesser Known Somebodies

The best way to get to the heart of a country’s problems is via its comedians. Or, at least, it’s the best way to get honest insight without leaving thoroughly depressed. South African comedian Simmi Areff interviews an array of local and international stars and media personalities. Each episode of Lesser Known Somebodies consists of relaxed, no-holds-barred conversations that dive deep into important issues in a way that’ll have you chuckling throughout.

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