The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has served South African Broadcasting Corporation  (SABC ) management with a 48-hour notice to strike, saying its members will down tools on Friday.

Tensions are high at the public broadcaster after management began issuing retrenchment notices to staff. The other union representing SABC workers, Bemawu, has applied to the Labour Court to interdict the retrenchments.

SABC Board Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, has confirmed the public broadcaster will continue with the retrenchment of 400 permanent staff members.

This, despite a plea from Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams that the board considers other alternatives. The Minister held an urgent meeting with the SABC on Tuesday night.

 Makhathini comments on the latest developments:

Sombre mood at SABC Bloemfontein offices

Reality is beginning to sink in for SABC employees who are facing retrenchments at the broadcaster’s Bloemfontein office. The mood is at an all-time low. And the future is uncertain and daunting.

Thirty-eight-year-old single mother of one, Gwen Maphike is a Human Resource Consultant at the SABC’s Bloemfontein office. She’s been with the public broadcaster for 13 years also serving as an administrator.

Maphike received her retrenchment letter on Monday and she is still tasked with handing out letters to the rest of the staff in Bloemfontein. She says she is sad.

“Retrenchment is a very emotional process that every human being does go through. For myself, I must have become a bit … I was emotional in my own corner, but due to working for HR I must show my strong heart to support everyone. It is an emotional feeling for all of us at the moment but God has always something in store.”

Lorato Phetlhu has lost her job after 15 years of service. She was a marketing and events coordinator.

Phetlhu broke down in tears when revealing on how this will affect many families.

“This situation has affected us in a bad way. I have been speaking to colleagues. Everybody has plans and because of COVID, we could not have achieved some of the things we wanted in 2020. So, obviously, you told yourself that in 2021 people wanted to go to school, people wanted to buy houses. It’s really sad that you get a letter on 18 November that says you are jobless.”

Teboho Letshaba, one of the SABC News reporters, says the morale is low in the newsroom.

“The news at the present moment is gloomy in the newsroom. It is difficult for us that a lot of colleagues that are affected, you work with them, some of them are your closest friends. So, it becomes a sad situation when you see a lot of them being retrenched. It’s difficult to focus but we have an obligation to fulfil the public mandate of informing and educating the masses.”

Some of the areas affected in the Bloemfontein office include radio news current affairs, logistics, Lesedi FM programmes and communications.