Broke SABC to get a government bailout

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The bankrupt SABC is due to receive urgent "interim" financial relief from the Treasury in the next ten days, with the balance to be released 45 days after that.

The long-awaited announcement was made by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams in parliament during a debate on her department's budget vote.

The SABC had been waiting for more than a year for the government to respond to its request for a R3.2bn bailout or a loan guarantee, after it went broke.

The national broadcaster has since last year been battling to pay service providers amid threats of large-scale retrenchments and uncertainty over the payment of salaries.

This was while Ndabeni-Abrahams and the national treasury, under finance minister Tito Mboweni, refused to approve or reject the broadcaster's request for financial assistance, as they were not happy with the turnaround strategy SABC top brass had presented to them.

Addressing MPs, Ndabeni-Abrahams did not indicate how much the SABC would be receiving in the next ten days.

"Government is actively looking at strengthening the SABC. As we reported in the portfolio committee last week, we continue to engage with national treasury on a lasting financial solution for the public broadcaster.

"To this end, working with the national treasury, we will in the next ten days, provide a portion of the interim relief and the remaining within the next 45 days.

"However, this is subject to the SABC meeting all the set conditions and requirements. In this regard, we'll work with the minister of finance towards an institutional mechanism to support the turnaround effort and this includes the appointment of the CRO (chief restructuring officer," said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Speaking during the same debate, DA MP Phumzile van Damme claimed there was tension between Ndabeni-Abrahams and the SABC board.

Van Damme said the government needed to move with speed to ensure that they prevented a total broadcast-blackout at Auckland Park.

"We applaud the SABC’s staff who made sure that probably for the first time in democratic South Africa, coverage of the election was fair across parties. Is this why the minister is upset, that the SABC no longer exists to serve only the ANC’s interests?

"Is it because the SABC bravely reported on how she attempted to block reporters from covering protests at an ANC manifesto launch? Is that why? Well, build a bridge and get over it and stop putting your ego above that of the people of South Africa," said Van Damme.

Fana Mokoena, of the EFF, said no turnaround strategy would save the SABC from financial ruin until it was depoliticised.

"The SABC needs to be depoliticised… we're still hearing stories of the politicisation of the SABC and it's going to destroy that institution. We must release the skills audit… People are running around the SABC and they don't know what they're doing," said Mokoena.


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