Finance Minister has come under heavy criticism for describing the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as the implementing tool for the Department of Communications.

This is contained in a letter wherein National Treasury says it cannot back the R3.2 billion guarantee sought.

The letter is dated 25 June – a week before Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams appeared before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says Ndabeni-Abrahams mislead Parliament as she already knew when she sat before Parliament that the Mboweni had rejected the bailout.

“We are of the view that the Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams withheld from Parliament the decision by the Finance Minister not to grant the SABC a guarantee. The letter which has been leaked into the media was sent to the Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams days before she appeared before Parliament and she ought to have told the public and indeed Parliament (about) the decision by the minister. The contents of the letter itself are very problematic. We are of the view that neither the Finance Minister nor Communications Minister understands their roles as it relates to the SABC and that the SABC is independent and has a final authority on matters that relates to the SABC. We call on National Treasury, and the SABC board to negotiate in good faith in the interest of the public and in the interest of the staff that works at the SABC,” says DA Member of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications, Phumzile van Damme.

It is the content of the letter that has attracted heavy criticism. In it, the Minister of Finance details the reasons why government cannot back the R3.2 billion guarantee.

Bloated staff costs and the funding model are among his reasons.

But it’s Minister Mboweni’s conclusion in the letter that the SABC is only an implementing tool for the Department of Communications which has drawn more contestation.

Media Monitoring Africa’s William Bird says Mboweni’s assertion is dangerous and anti-democratic.

On the other hand, Bird praises the improvements that the broadcaster has made recently even in the midst of financial trouble.

“Six out of the ten performing media in our elections monitoring were from the SABC. That’s an incredible achievement in such a short space of time. Show me any public entity that has provided that amount of information and certainty to parliament,” says Bird.

Meanwhile, SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe has told staff that various versions government guarantee applications have been submitted in the past five months.

He says despite collective efforts in turning around the SABC, the corporation urgently needs recapitalisation for it to be financially sustainable.