South Africa

SABC total blackout warning


SABC chairperson Khathu Ramukumba said the broadcaster faced day zero with a total blackout of its radio and TV services.

Ramukumba said three months after they came into office, they received an advisory from their management team that the SABC faced ‘day zero’ in the next six months.

Day zero included employees not being paid and the state broadcaster risking a blackout on its radio and TV broadcasts.

The SABC board developed a short-term strategy intervention to avoid this situation and presented it to the minister and the Communications Department.

He said that although they had failed to implement everything in their short-term strategy, they avoided day zero and a complete blackout.

Ramukumba added that while the SABC continue to pay salaries each month, it remains “on the edge”.

“We had to defer expenditure programmes – some very critical to ensure the continued broadcasting services of the SABC,” he said.

The dismal state of the SABC is not a surprise. Many people have highlighted that the state broadcaster is mismanaged and faces serious problems.

Deputy Minister of Communications Philly Mapulane said in November 2023 that the SABC was worse off now than before it received a R3.2 billion bailout from the government.

“You will recall we supported the turnaround plan. It was implemented with the hope it would turn around the fortunes of the SABC, but the turnaround plan never turned the finances of the SABC,” he said.

“We are back to where we were, if not in a worse position than when we started with a bailout.”

Mapulane also revealed that the SABC had requested R1.5 billion in additional funding from the National Treasury, which was rejected.

“The argument was that because of the macro environment the SABC has painted, operating under the environment of analogue switch off and the need for the SABC to make sure the elections are covered, we submitted a motivation to the Treasury for R1.5 billion,” said Mapulane.

“When the Minister was tabling the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, that allocation was not accepted, so we didn’t get what we requested.”

Mapulane is hopeful that in the next Budget Speech in 2024, the National Treasury will grant the SABC additional funding.

The SABC has previously warned that it will collapse financially if it does not receive an urgent cash injection from the government and fundamentally change its operating model.

The SABC is in extreme financial distress and could be forced to apply for business rescue, according to the group’s CFO, Yolande van Biljon.

Chaos at the SABC

Former SABC board member, Mathatha Tsedu

Former SABC board member Mathatha Tsedu said there is chaos at the SABC, with rampant corruption and fraud affecting the company’s performance.

 He said the board was forced to intervene in the company’s management to try and stop the corruption at the state-owned enterprise. 

Tsedu was speaking on the back of a High Court ruling that the former interim board, of which Tsedu was a member, interfered with procurement processes that led to the awarding of an irregular security contract in 2017. 

“The interim board arrived at the SABC and found so much chaos that we had to be involved in almost everything. We were almost living there and acting like an executive board,” Tsedu said. 

In normal circumstances, Tsedu admitted that much of what the board did would be seen as undue interference. 

However, due to the broadcaster’s extreme circumstances, the board felt obliged to interfere in the SABC management. 

The board cancelled numerous contracts, including some involving the Gupta family, despite it not being the board’s duty to do so. 

“We just needed to find a way of making sure that whatever plans have been put in place to facilitate corruption could not continue,” Tsedu said. 

“Our position was that whatever this corrupt system we were sitting over had proposed had to be stopped.” 

Despite the ruling from the High Court, “My conscience is clear,” Tsedu said. “The SIU report says that nothing untoward occurred. If I have to die, so be it.”


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