Top Billing

Top Billing is a South African lifestyle and travel magazine show that is broadcast on SABC 3 weekly every Thursday at 20:30 to 21:30. The show is the longest running of its kind and in that genre in South Africa.

Top Billing
Country South Africa
Genre Lifestyle, Travel
Language English
Created By Patience Stevens


Exec. Producers Basetsana Khumalo
Patience Stevens
Production House Tswelopele


Previous Channels TV 1, SABC 2
Current Channel SABC 3
Picture Format Unknown
Original Run 1992 – to date



Top Billing was created by Patience Stevens in 1992 following her departure from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) after spending 11 years there.

She had worked for the SABC as the production secretary in sport, floor manager, assistant producer and and later a producer.

Patience Stevens left the SABC to work as a freelancer and set out to gain experience as an outside producer.

She had a vision of creating the Top Billing concept.

Patience Stevens and then associates produced a pilot for Top Billing and sent it to the SABC.

The pilot of the show, Top Billing, they had produced was accepted and commissioned.

In 1992 the very first episode of Top Billing went on air on TV 1 anchored by Michelle Garforth and Neil McCarthy.

In 1994  Basetsana Khumalo (née Makgalemele) won Miss South Africa which led to her being approached by Patience Stevens to join Top Billing as one of the presenters.

In 1995 Patience Stevens and Basetsana Khumalo founded Tswelopele  Productions; a company that continues to produce the show to this day.

It is understood that at one point Top Billing moved to SABC 2; this would have been at least in 1996 or beyond as the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) overhauled its image and channels and relaunched it’s three new look channels (SABC 1, 2 and 3).

In 1999 Michael Mol was introduced to Top Billing and remained there well into the recent years; he became popular for “Good night and God bless” sign out phase.

Which has also been popularized by 2000 Miss South Africa winner Jo-Ann Strauss and others.

As of 2012 Top Billing is South Africa’s longest running magazine show on television “It’s extremely remarkable how the show has deftly been able to traverse with tact, tenacity and business acumen the various vagaries and pitfalls through 20 years to not only remain on the SABC and its constantly changing powers-that-be, but by passing, one-by-one the records of all other longrunning [sic] magazine shows such as 50/50 which succumbed to breaks in their storied transmission lengths,” Teeveetee (TV with Thinus) reported in November 2012.




Top Billing airs an approximately 60 minutes weekly episode including commercial breaks; the episode is prerecorded and is often presented by a single presenter from a featured house.

The hosting presenter will introduce all inserts which may feature the same presenter or any of the other Top Billing presenters in various places across the world.

Those inserts are about a spectrum of lifestyle sub-topics from; beauty, celebrities, entertainment, fashion, film, food, home decor, sports, television, travel and weddings among others.


  • Celebrities

Top Billing often interview celebrities from South Africa to to those from abroad; down the years the show has featured some of the biggest names in entertainment, film, television and business.

Most notably the British businessman and founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson; American businessman Donald Trump and his wife Ivana Trump; South African supermodel Candice Swanepoel, South African Hollywood actress Charlize Theron, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and the incumbent president of the African National Congress (ANC) and South Africa Jacob Zuma.

Notable local based celebrities that have appeared on Top Billing include Pearl Thusi, Amanda du-Pont, Bryan Habana, Dineo Ranaka, Sonia Booth, Teko Modise, Andile Jali, Lizelle Tabane, Arno Carstens, Oscar Pistorius and Vusi Kunene of Blackanese Sushi Bar among many others.


  • Press Junket

Top Billing sends its presenters all over the world to take part in film and music promotional interviews often referred to as “Press Junket”.

In recent years Top Billing presenters have attended press junkets of films such as Hancock starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman and Eddie Marsan; The Judge starring Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, and Billy Bob Thornton; Skyfall starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney and Judi Dench; The Other Woman starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; and Rio 2 a 3D computer-animated musical adventure-comedy film featuring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway,, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, and Jake T. Austin.

During the 2012 My Top Billing Dream presenter search competition which was eventually won by Jonathan Boynton-Lee, a contestant named Lauren Blackwell won an opportunity to travel to Australia to interview Justin Bieber, the interview was later featured on the show.



Presenter Search Competition

The job of a Top Billing presenter is among the most sought after in South Africa; the presenters of the show have been quoted on numerous occasions claiming that theirs is among the best jobs in the world.

Top Billing first held a presenter search competition in 2007; in that competition Kelly Parkhurst emerged victorious ahead Kajal Bagwandeen.

The second Top Billing presenter search competition was held in 2010 where the late Simba Mhere emerged victorious and went on to forge a successful career with the show before his untimely death.

In 2012 the Top Billing presenter search competition returned under the title “My Top Billing Dream”; it was arguably the most dramatic yet.

Incredibly, it was the least dramatic contestant, Jonathan Boynton-Lee, who went on to win and as of February 2015 he remains on Top Billing.

The Top Billing presenter job is so sought after that numerous celebrities have auditioned during these presenter search competitions, among other; former SABC 1 continuity presenter and former Generations actress Zama Ngcobo and 5FM’s Damon Kalvari.

The endeavour has also produced personalities such Kajal Bagwandeen who has gone on to appear on 7de Laan, Khanya Ngumbela who earned her stripes after famously failing to complete a link on several occasions and Lauren Blackwell suffered a meltdown while interviewing Justin Bieber.





Current Presenters Past Presenters
Presenter Period Presenter Period
Aidan Bennetts Unknown – to date Basetsana Khumalo 1995 – Unknown
Bonang Matheba 2012 – to date Casey B Dolan Unknown
Janez Vermeiren Unknown – to date Dhiveja Sundrum Unknown
Jeannie D 2006 – to date Kelly Parkhurst Unknown
Jo-Ann Strauss 2005 – to date Lyndall Jarvis Unknown
Jonathan Boynton-Lee 2012 – to date Michelle Garforth 1992 – Unknown
Lorna Lukhele 2010 – to date Neil McCarthy 1992 – Unknown
Michael Mol 1999 – to date Simba Mhere 2010 – 2005
Nico Panagio 2007 – to date Sinazo Yolwa 2011
Roxy Burger 2014 – to date Tatum Keshwar 2010
Ursula Chikane 2000 – to date Tumisho Masha Unknown
Vanessa Haywood Unknown

Voice-over Artist

Current Voice-over Artists Past Voice-over Artists
Voice-over Artist Period Voice-over Artist Period
Alex Jay Unknown
Kevin Savage Unknown
Phil Wright Unknown





Top Billing has been criticized for its flashy ways; this criticism has been related to the lifestyle and subjects flighted on the show in a country (South Africa) that is besieged by poverty and inequality.