Democratic Alliance (DA) Member of Parliament Phumzile Van Damme says the majority of South Africans who depend on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for information will be among the hardest hit if the Public Broadcaster hits Day-Zero and can no longer pay its staff.

Van Damme was participating in the debate on the budget vote for the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies in parliament on Wednesday.

She called on Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to ensure that the important role that the SABC plays in a democracy should be protected, supported and respected.

“This is a heartfelt … the plea, I make on behalf of those people of our country who do not have money for Netflix, Show-Max or DSTV and in some cases do not own TVs and only have radios. You know that the majority of South Africans only rely on the SABC‘s radio and TV stations. Please ensure that they can continue to be provided with information, education and entertainment by the public broadcaster. Day-Zero must never come, for it will be them (majority who depend on SABC) who will suffer. You may live a life of luxury. They do not.”

Interim financial relief

Ndabeni-Abrahams earlier announced that the SABC is to receive interim financial relief from government within the next 10 days and a major cash injection in the next 45 days, if it meets certain conditions.

The Minister will be required to regularly brief the Communication Committee in Parliament about the progress of discussions to address the financial crisis at the SABC.

This was confirmed by Communication Committee Chairperson in Parliament and African National Congress Member of Parliament, Hope Papo.

“The Committee also noted with concern the serious challenges facing the SABC. The portfolio committee agreed when we adopt the report that the minister will update it on the progress in relation to the ongoing engagement between the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, the SABC and National Treasury on the challenges facing the SABC.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Pinky Kekana, who was also in attendance praised the SABC board and employees for keeping the public broadcaster running despite its financial challenges.

“We are truly indebted to the board, the management and the staff of the SABC who have continued to steer the ship through stormy seas, which were not through their own doing. We will be working studiously and speedily with G-Tech, SABC current lenders and National Treasury as the Minister outlined to ensure that the SABC gets assistance it desperately needs while the parliamentary processes are being finalised. The department has also identified policies that need to be amended to create an enabling environment for the turnaround and complete recovery of the SABC.”