BACK IN THE DAY
WERE you perhaps around during the bitter-sweet olden days of Radio Bantu, when clothes used to have labels on the inside? The days that boasted household products such as Fab washing powder, Hubbly-Bubbly cold drink, Hush Puppies shoes,Brylcreem hair and slates were used at lower primary schools by the Dom A’s, as Substandard A pupils were contemptuously called?
Those were the days of the radio, long before the advent of television in our township homes, when commentators breathed words into the microphone to bring what was happening around the few households that were lucky enough to own a radio, thus enabled them to “see with their ears,” by developing mental pictures of what was being said on the radio.
Dan Setshedi was among the handful of radio commentators of the day, and when television (TV 2 and TV 3) took full control of lounges from Alexandra Township to Zeerust back in 1981, radio listeners finally saw the face behind the voice behind their favourite commentator.
Affectionately called Oom Dan by all and sundry, Dan Setshedi was a school-teacher before joining the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in 1962. “That was after radio channels had been introduced for the first time for the black people of South Africa, and I decided to try my hand in `something new’.
“I was looking for a fresh challenge,” he told this writer during an interview for the now-defunct Pace magazine at his home in Ga-Rankuwa, just a medicine-dose from the Medical University of South Africa (Medunsa), shortly before his retirement.
The man who would later earn himself a soft spot in the collective hearts of thousands of television sports lovers countrywide, began as a compiler of programmes for Radio Setswana. “Among programmes I used to present were Mosala Gae, for those who remained back home while others had gone to work or school, and Mphetise Fa, meaning `help me through this problem’.
Ever the smiling veteran of broadcasting, Oom Dan was also the man who introduced Ithlopele Senotlolo (win yourself a key to some mysterious prize), which happened to be one of the most popular programmes of its day. Next was Tswelelopele Ya Jazz, the progress of jazz music, which Oom Dan co-presented with Getz Komane, which became one of the longest-running radio programmes ever.
Oom Dan’s enthusiasm and popularity were recognised and rewarded at Radio Setswana with a three-in-one promotion to the post of Producer-Announcer-Translator, while the well-liked presenter will always be remembered for his tireless work as a sports commentator.
“I was the first black to handle the first live radio transmission of an amateur boxing tournament, staged in Witbank,” he proudly recalled. Thanks to Oom Dan, thousands of boxing fans were able to tune in to some memorable boxing bouts.
It was Oom Dan who brought the historic fight between the late pugilist from Durban Joe `Axe Killer’ Ngidi and American fighter Rubin `Hurricane’ Carter in 1964 at the Johannesburg’s Wembley Stadium into thousands of listeners’ homes.
`Hurricane’ won by a knock-out, as `Axe Killer’ was ferried to Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital with a fractured mandible (broken jaw). “I was also at the ringside in Monte Carlo, USA, when South Africa’s white-hope Gerrie Coetzee flattened America’s Leon Spinks in 1979, and also at Sun City, Bophuthatswana, when America’s `Big’ John Tate floored South Africa’s Kallie Knoetze,” Oom Dam often took delight in his many firsts.
The man of many firsts presented the match-awaited soccer match in the early 1970s between the South African XI and the British All Stars. “Instead of displaying their individual skills as had been expected, this time proved beyond doubt that `unity was the name of the game’. However, it was the bow-legged Lucas `Masterpieces’ Moripe, of Pretoria Callies who literally stood out, showing he was not called `Masterpieces’ for nothing.
Although popular and held in high esteem by most of ardent listeners, there were those found it hard in their hearts to forgive Oom Dan after he was the commentator at the funeral service in 1966 of assassinated much-loathed Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, South Africa’s Prime Minister and `architect of grand apartheid’
“It demanded lots of courage on my part to be able to handle that funeral service. There are some people who still harbor feelings against me for that, but it was a call of duty, which I could not avoid,” Oom Dan had nothing but a gloomy memory surrounding the inevitable event.
For 19 years after joining the SABC, Oom Dan remained involved in radio, until the introduction of TV2 and TV3. “Switching to television was as natural as breathing for me. If I could draw the attention of thousands of listeners by means of my voice, it was thus a lesser task with television because viewers were able to see what I was telling them about. They did not need to develop mental pictures for that. Hence, I could furnish them with important bits and pieces of information on sports personalities on the pitch or inside the square jungle (ring).”
Oom Dan, who retired a sprightly sexagenarian (at the age of 60) in the early 1990s, had remained active as a part-time sports commentator, with a firm belief that: “Perhaps I am gradually turning radio and television commentaries into the same entity. “That is enabling radio listeners `see sporting events with their ears’, while helping `television viewers to `watch’ with their eyes closed.”
Whatever the case, Oom Dan Setshedi’s career has been stretched beyond earthly boundaries and further into heavenly realms. To the Setshedi Family:
When you come to the edge of all the
Light you have ever known, go ahead.
Prayerfully step into the Unknown
Future. You can be sure “There will
Be something to stand on, or you will
Be taught how to fly (Heb 13:5)