DA unsatisfied with SABC cost-cutting plans – Phumzile van Damme

MP says public broadcaster seems to be shooting itself in the foot by restricting profit generating services

SABC retrenchments: DA unsatisfied with SABC cost-cutting and retrenchment plans

13 November 2018

Today the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) appeared before the Communications Portfolio Committee to present its plan regarding the implementation of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act – the retrenchment of staff.

Instead of presenting a plan detailing how extensive cost-cutting has been implemented, the SABC told Parliament of cosmetic savings such as:

- Restricting purchases of refreshments

- No catering for meetings

- No hiring of venues

- Limiting attendance of conferences and workshops

- Limit printing of documents

- Containment of consulting fees

The SABC currently needs R3 billion in order to stay above water, and we would have expected the presentation of extensive, innovative cost-cutting measures which would not only steer the public broadcaster to calm waters, but also save the jobs of the estimated 2 200 staff it intends retrenching by 1 February 2019.

Instead of saving itself, the SABC seems to be shooting itself in the foot by restricting profit generating services. As an example the production of content has been reduced. It is the production and purchase of quality content which draws audiences and in turn, advertisers, the SABC’s main source of revenue.

The DA has been very clear that we will not support the retrenchment of staff unless it is a last resort after all cost-cutting measures have been exhausted and an independent skills and salary audit conducted.

The SABC’s GCEO, Madoda Maxakwe today indicated that the SABC would not be conducting an independent skills and would be relying on PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PWC) skills audit conducted in 2013. This audit is outdated and much has changed at the SABC, for the worse. The last five years saw intensified financial mismanagement, irregular appointments and salary increases. Furthermore, the PWC audit only focused on an audit of skills and qualification and not salaries. A fresh, independently conducted audit assessing skills, salaries and qualifications is needed before the SABC considers retrenchment. In its plans today, it was clear that the SABC did not have clear direction regarding which staff would be retained and retrenched, and on what basis. An audit is needed to generate that information.

The DA is equally bewildered by the apparent blatant lie told by the SABC Head of HR, Jonathan Thekiso, who vehemently denied being sent a letter informing him that the picket by SABC staff last Friday would be peaceful and during their lunch hour, to which he responded with a threat of disciplinary action against any staff participating in the picket, a constitutional right they are entitled to, especially if it is during their lunch break not during work hours. We will lay charges against Mr Thekiso in terms of the Powers and Privileges Act for misleading Parliament should he not withdraw his apparent fib, and set the record straight.

The DA is committed to not only re-building the SABC after years of mismanagement, but also preventing unnecessary job losses.

The SABC has it within its powers and brain trust to prevent this. We trust that the board along with management with further apply their minds to further cut costs and conduct the audit as requested.

Issued by Phumzile Van Damme, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, 13 November 2018