Labour unions at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) and Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu) have come out in defence of Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
They say the Minister was not interfering when she wrote a letter to the SABC Board to halt retrenchments.
On the other hand, the Media Worker’s Association of South Africa (Mwasa) has criticised the SABC Board, Parliament, its two Portfolio Committees of Communications and Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and the Minister for their handling of the SABC crisis.
The latest spat between the Communications Minister and the SABC board played itself out in the media after the Minister wrote a letter to the board to halt retrenchments. But the board would reportedly not accept the offer, seeing it as interference. This has soured relations between the board and the shareholder.
CWU General Secretary, Aubrey Tshabalala, says they support the move by Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams.
“From what we learnt in the meeting that was held with the Minister, it’s a clear indication and re-affirmation of what we have been saying all along that this board is not willing to transform the SABC or steer the ship into the safer shores but is working tirelessly to drown the SABC. I mean if you have got an offer that say you will get the money so long you do not retrench, I think it is one thing that we can all grab as South Africans to say that we want to pursue that particular objective and in absentia of that means that you are moving for destruction. So that is what we are basically talking about,” says Tshabalala.
Bemawu President, Hannes Du Buisson, says the spat between the board and the Minister is unfortunate.
But Du Buisson says he finds it strange that the board refused her offer.
“We believe that the minister is acting squarely within her powers, she has not overstepped her boundary of interfering with the SABC. If one looks at the letter that she has sent to the board, she has pleaded with the board and not instructed them. But pleaded with the board to set aside or put on hold for a moment, the Section 189 process, pending the forming of a committee by Treasury, DOC (Department of Communications) and SABC to look at other ways of avoiding job losses as the SABC. And it is indeed very sorry that the SABC board is not taking up this particular offer from the minister,” says Du Buisson.
Mwasa General Secretary, Tuwani Gumani, is shifting some blame to Parliament and its two portfolio committees, the board and the minister, saying the SABC cannot afford to move backwards again.
“We do not expect such senior people in our social, political and economic discourse to be playing it this way. I don’t really believe that the Minister is playing her cards in a manner that is useful. I don’t believe equally that the Portfolio Committee on Communications, SCOPA, Parliament, the Board are playing this game in a manner that it should be played. I don’t think raising red herrings is the best way to go. I think the best way to go is, bring everybody under one roof. Let’s have a frank, open discussion on what we want for the public broadcaster,” says Gumani.
The SABC Spokesperson Neo Momodu has re-iterated that the public broadcaster will not comment.
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