The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says its cash flow will dry up by the end of this financial year, if the corporation does not receive a financial injection. The Public Broadcaster was briefing Parliament’s Communications Committee on the implementation of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

The Corporation says due to its dire financial situation, financial institutions are reluctant to help them. The SABC is over-staffed, and it also has an inflated remuneration bill and Section 189 will affect all employees, all divisions, and all provincial offices.

This is what the Public Broadcaster told Parliament’s Communications Committee. The corporation is in dire financial straits.

Board Chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini says banks are reluctant to help. “A few months ago we got a borrowing letter of R1.2 billion from the National Treasury and that letter has not yielded anything because of disclaimer status that we have got from the AG, the banks have been very reluctant to give us any financial facility. We still don’t have any finances, government guarantee is the only thing we need to progress. “

The Corporation says it has exhausted all cost-cutting measures. It says it will meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa, Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to discuss financial assistance.

“We have gone to the president, to the Minister of Communications, the Minister of Finance to say let’s have an urgent meeting of all those three people and ourselves to discuss this crisis, the deadline for that meeting is this week. From where we are sitting we have done whatever may be expected of a Board like ours,” says Deputy Chairperson Mathatha Tsedu

Chief Executive Officer Madoda Mxakwe says if they do not get financial assistance, SABC’s coffers will run dry by the end of this financial year. “ Unfortunately owing to the fact that we have been awarded disclaimer opinion by the AG  it’s very difficult for financial institutions to come to our rescue so all of this means that the threat of commercial insolvency is increasing quite significantly and we will indeed reach our day zero by the end of the financial year if nothing is done.”

HR Group Executive, Jonathan Thekiso, says the method of implementing Section 189 will be based on competency and qualifications. “Now all things being equal you have four employees with similar qualifications and competencies or similar job the LIFO principle will apply those are the things we are proposing.”

About 981 permanent staff members might be retrenched, and contracts of about 1200 freelancers will not be renewed. Members of the Committee believe that the SABC is not doing enough to avoid retrenchments. It is insisting that retrenchments should be a last resort.

Meanwhile the SABC’s 60-day consultation process into staff retrenchments has been effectively put on ice. The process was supposed to get underway on Wednesday, but it turned into an information sharing exercise with the CCMA backing labour unions’ call for more information.

Unions have two weeks to consider the information obtained from the first sitting and request further particulars. The process will start in the middle of December only to stall for the Christmas holidays. Nevertheless, SABC CFO Yolande Van Biljon says they are pushing ahead with the planned retrenchments.

“ I think we’ve made tremendous progress and the deadline still remains in place and we will be sharing information and the process will then unfold. I’m not at this time able to say what we will be agreeing to when it will depend on probably the session in December, will to a large extent drive the process forward.”

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