The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) workers enter the second week of protest against management’s planned retrenchments of 400 permanent staff. Employees are calling for the process to be scrapped.

Unions and management met on Monday to discuss a way forward, but talks ended up in a stalemate.

While management has maintained that the retrenchment process is necessary to make the organisation financially sustainable, staff are convinced that the restructuring process will compromise the organisation’s public broadcasting mandate.

It has however temporarily suspended the retrenchment process for seven days to allow further engagement with stakeholders.

Staff to continue with pickets  

SABC Foreign News Editor, Sophie Mokoena, has vowed to continue fighting against the planned retrenchments despite threats that she’ll be charged.

Speaking during Monday afternoon’s lunch-hour picket at the SABC‘s headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Mokoena reiterated that the restructuring process will compromise the organisation’s public broadcasting mandate.

SABC Protests | Staffers continue with lunchtime pickets: 

SABC News Channel Editor, Njanji Chauke says “Working here at the SABC now, you are telling me that my position is no longer available. You are changing my position without negotiating with me. I have signed a contract. We almost died here at the SABC … We want management to negotiate in good faith.”

An impassioned plea to management by workers who have been on the frontline, putting their lives on the line. they are calling on management to work with the unions to find an amicable solution to this impasse.

Aubrey Tshabalala is the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union. He says, “We are demanding that we must discuss a structure because when you do that, you come up with alternatives such as skills audit and also moving to online journalism by upskilling our workers to generate new revenue streams.”

Communication Workers Union lunchtime picket:

Mokoena was among those who confronted SABC management in a hostile meeting in the newsroom last week. Mokoena says she won’t back down, despite the threats.

Channel Africa’s Luyanda Maome says, “We are going to sit here every day and minute until we get a resolution that works for us.”

CWU Shopsteward Billy Matsitse says “We are calling on our members, the ones sitting in the offices that we are disappointed in them for that. Because we are fighting for bread and butter issues. Everyone is affected. We are calling on the managers and freelancers to come out in their numbers.”

Indigenous languages

Staff members at the SABC’s Durban office believe that the new structure will kill indigenous languages if employees were retrenched.

They say people in rural areas won’t have a voice and their stories wouldn’t be told, especially during the upcoming 2021 local government elections.

SABC Video Journalist, Nomhle Ngubane says, “Some of the indigenous languages have to take a back-foot because if there is so many of you there cannot cater all the languages. In the Eastern Cape, there are people who use different languages, but not all journalists will be able to speak all these languages all at the same time. Unfortunately, if you take away the language from the people who listen to it every day, you are killing that language, which means you actually decided that language is not important.”

SABC Radio Journalist, Nonkululeko Hlophe says, “In 2016, the  SABC was praised as one of the media houses that held local government election in an extraordinary way. Come 2021 as we are heading towards the election, what is going to happen to rural people like Ophongolo, who can’t speak English. Are they going to be catered for this? We know that the majority of people in the province speak isiZulu but with this structure, we are not even sure that we will have our jobs, and the people who have sacrificed so many years are facing the chop.”

The SABC strike continues at the broadcaster’s office in Port Elizabeth. Members of the Communication Workers Union joined by Azapo, are picketing outside the SABC premises. Staffers have vowed to continue fighting for their jobs.

 

Staffers continue with lunchtime pickets against job cuts: