The radio personality, author, motivational speaker and former gospel singer, Wanda Bam, boasts a new, and according to her unexpected, addition to her remarkable career these days: that of station manager at Radio Cape Chancel.
“I thought I would now be able to sit quietly and write books and just be a grandmother, but the Lord absolutely paved the way here. He sees far in advance what he has planned for us and sometimes he allows a guy to see only about two meters in front of you, because you will be scared if you see what he is putting in your way,” she tells RNews about her new role at this community radio station in the Western Cape.
Although this is her first management position of this nature, Wanda is no rookie in the radio industry. She started her radio career by chance 25 years ago as an announcer at Impact Radio and later Radio Cape Chancel’s sister station, Radio Chancel.
Here she worked on and off and in between continued her music career as a gospel singer. She also worked for eight years as head of music, drama and performing arts at a congregation in Pretoria.
“However, my heart has always been in broadcasting. I wanted to be effective as a speaker and find ways to get good content to as many people out there. I never necessarily wanted to be known as this phenomenal announcer, but rather as a well-qualified announcer who does thorough research and can equip many people at once with a good piece of the Gospel and insight from experts.”
According to Wanda, motivational talks were also a natural consequence of her work as an announcer.
“My love for broadcasting comes from the type of interviews I’ve done, but here at the age of thirty I felt like I wanted to start tackling more difficult conversations and talk to speakers who stimulate me more. Fortunately, radio is a wonderful way to think more broadly and in the end, as a speaker, I also learned to tackle more difficult topics.”
After her move to Cape Town, eleven years ago, she initially joined Radio Kaap Kansel as an announcer. She then also took over the role of program organizer and later that of program manager.
However, early in her career she believed that certain topics should not be messed with, not even on radio stations with a Christian focus.
“Today’s people are more thoughtful about life. Certain so-called shames and problems were always kept quiet in the past, but today we take everything out and talk about them, because we want to get society and communities healthy.
“If things go wrong in the country, we must be able to talk about it and get conversations going to find solutions. This will only happen if we talk honestly.”
According to Wanda, community-based broadcasting is also extremely unique thanks to the family feeling it creates in listeners.
“We broadcast from Tyger Valley, but we have to make our listeners feel at home and part of a community all over the Western Cape, whether they live in Robertson, Swellendam or Langebaan.”
That is why she and her team focus on community projects such as the #WinterWarmerSocksThatRock campaign and initiatives in remote parts of the province. She also believes in continuous feedback and communication from listeners to help cultivate a sense of ownership.
“People need to physically see us as a station in their communities. Then they feel as if it really is their station, where they are noticed and on which they can share their opinion.”
This self-confessed introvert says that broadcasting has also brought growth and healing to her as a person.
“Some days you walk into the studio and then you think: ‘Wow, I really don’t feel like broadcasting today.’ But the moment the red recording light goes on and you start the conversations, you realize what a personal treat it is if you can live out what you were called to do.”
The difference that radio makes in readers’ lives also gives her renewed strength for broadcasting.
“One day a message came through while I was on the air from a man who said that at that moment he was sitting in a house in Robertson with a hand full of pills with which he wanted to end his life. I then decided to deviate from the program’s format and call him privately. I asked if I could pray for him, because I have experienced from my own family that suicide is not the solution.”
She says that this man called again shortly afterwards and thanked the radio station for saving his life.
“He said that just that single call and feeling of care and recognition he experienced at our radio station helped save his life. I just realized anew that our listeners and the difference we can make for them are the reason why we do this.”
When she is not a radio boss, she is also mother to her daughters, Melinda Bam, former Miss. SA, and Melissa Swart, singer, life coach and social media manager. Of course, she is also just “Grandma Wanda” to her three grandchildren.
“It is difficult to be in the Cape while the children and grandchildren are in Gauteng, but thank goodness for Zoom and phone calls. Grandma also flies up regularly to visit. “
According to Wanda, positive words and good, meaningful conversations are also powerful weapons and something she tries to apply in her personal life and career.
“The more hope is spoken, the more hope happens. The more negativity is spoken, the more death you see around you. That approach has become an integral part of my being as a person over the years and something that I will now also apply in this new role.”