South Africans owe R44.2 billion in outstanding TV licence fees, a sign of a tax revolt against corruption and mismanagement at the state broadcaster.
Communications Minister Mondli Gungubele revealed that 9.6 million South Africans had not paid their TV licence fees.
He added that the SABC has handed over 5.6 million of the biggest offenders to debt collectors to try to reduce the R44.2 billion of outstanding debt.
TV licence fee collections declined from R968 million in 2019 to R788 million in 2021, representing 18% of the total licence fees billed during the financial year.
The collection cost of the TV licence fees increased from R30 million to R64 million due to the use of Debt Collection Agencies (DCAs).
Overall, 2.2 million licence holders managed to settle their television licence fees in full or in part against a known database of 10.3 million television licence holders.
The SABC billed R4.4 billion in TV licences in the last financial year but only received R788.4 million.
“The licence fee collection rates indicate an evasion rate of 82%,” the SABC said in its latest annual report.
The situation became so desperate that the SABC wants to scrap TV licence fees in favour of a broadcasting household levy.
SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini added that it is crucial for major players in the industry, like MultiChoice, to assist with collecting the levy.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) CEO Wayne Duvenage said the low compliance rate is a clear sign that it is a tax revolt.
South Africans are tired of funding incompetent and corrupt state-owned enterprises like the SABC, SAA, Eskom, and the SA Post Office.
Duvenage said paying for a TV licence is a small annual fee, but most people do not pay it out of principle.
“It is seen as an unnecessary tax, and nothing gets citizens onto a cause of defiance against a state steeped in corruption than a tax revolt that the government can do nothing about,” he said.
He criticised the plan to levy TV licence fees on laptops, tablets, and DStv decoders and forcing MultiChoice to collect fees from their subscribers.
“You can’t run an inefficient service and then tax other related industries to cover your costs,” he said.
Instead of trying to squeeze more money out of TV licence fees, Duvenage said the SABC needs to fund itself through a normal commercial business model like advertising.
“The SABC needs to operate more efficiently and reduce unnecessary spending,” said Duvenage.