How to obtain a guest licence in South Africa

Last updated 2002-01-29

I get many enquiries about guest operations in South Africa.

Here is the current state of affairs:

  • Although the South African Radio League advertises itself as the best way to obtain a licence, at least two foreign applicants in the past month have reported not even having the courtesy of a reply. The SARL is in an administrative shambles, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. Don't waste your time.

  • South Africa is a CEPT signatory. If you are from a CEPT country, you can operate in South Africa without any further paperwork. Simply sign ZS6/(homecall)/P (or ZS1 or ZS2 or whatever call area you find yourself in). Most European countries, the USA and New Zealand are CEPT signatories. There is a full list of participating countries on the ARRL's Web site.

    When operating under CEPT privileges, you need three things: Your original licence, proof of citizenship of the country issuing the licence, and a copy of the authorisation validating your licence in the CEPT territories, in English, French and German. The FCC's validation is also available on the ARRL Web site.

  • If you are in a country that has a reciprocal agreement with South Africa, but that does not endorse the CEPT treaty, you can obtain a guest licence. You can try to do this through the SARL, but you will waste your time. Instead, deal directly with ICASA, the government agency that regulates radio. Simply send a fax to +27 11 321 8577, for the attention of Gert Visser. The fax must contain the following information: Full names; contact address and telephone numbers in South Africa; Itinerary and dates during which the country will be visited. Copies of one's passport title page, containing personal particulars, and one's licence must also be included. The licence document must show that the licence is still valid. If necessary, receipts or other proof of validity must also be enclosed.

    Although I was told in 2001 that a licence can be issued to a visiting amateur, the official line now is that no "normal" callsigns are issued to non-residents. The matter is being addressed, through a petition to ICASA. If you are a resident, you can apply for a regular callsign. You can even request a specific callsign, and the request will be honoured if the callsign is vacant. Class 1 licences use a ZS prefix, while Class 2 licences use a ZR prefix. The call area must correspond to the contact address. A list of major cities and areas is supplied below.

    For both guest and resident licences, ICASA will mail a licence to the South African contact address. As soon as this account is paid (at any post office), your licence is valid. It remains valid for a full calendar year. The licence fee is less than US$ 5 per year.

    Which call area am I in?

    South Africa has six call areas on the mainland, as well as Antarctica (ZS7) and the Prince Edward Islands (ZS8). The call areas are as follows:

  • ZS1: Western Cape Province (Cape Town and environs). Tel: 2x. Post: 62, 65, 66, 68, 71 to 79, 80, 82.

  • ZS2: Eastern Cape Province (Port Elizabeth, East London). Tel: 4x. Post: 49, 52, 56, 58, 60, 61, 62, 65.

  • ZS3: Northern Cape Province (Kimberly, Upington). Tel: 53, 54. Post: 69, 83 to 86, 88, 89.

  • ZS4: Free State Province (Bloemfontein, Welkom). Tel: 51, 52, 55 to 59. Post: 19, 24, 93 to 95, 97 to 99.

  • ZS5: Kwa Zulu Natal Province (Durban, Pietermaritzburg). Tel: 3x. Post: 29, 32, 33, 36 to 43.

  • ZS6: Gauteng, Northern, Northwest and Mpumalanga Provinces. (Pretoria, Johannesburg, Pietersburg, Mafikeng, Kruger National Park). Tel: 1x. Post: 0, 1, 21, 24, 27.

    Each area shows the postal and telephone codes associated with the area. Compare these to your contact address details to determine which call area your licence will be in. Postal codes have four digits, with only the first one or two digits being shown (e.g. 0181 is in ZS6, 8001 is in ZS1, 8601 is in ZS3). The postal listing is not complete, but most of the important ones should be shown. Telephone dialling codes consist of two digits, and are preceded either by a "0" (domestically) or by +27 (from abroad). Example: 12 is in ZS6, and would be shown as 012 or +27 12 in telephone numbers.

    Have fun! Just don't expect to hear lots of loud signals while you're down here...

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