SABC struggles to pay staff

Bloated top structure has at least 495 people in management

SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. File photo.
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. File photo.
Image: Waldo Swiegers. (C) Sunday Times.

The SABC needs urgent financial help otherwise it may not be able to pay salaries in November – a situation that has already hit independent producers.

“Our financial situation . . . is in a very‚ very critical state.

“If we don’t get the financial help‚ come November we are going to struggle‚” SABC board chair Bongumusa Makhathini said in an exclusive interview with TimesLIVE on Tuesday.

Makhathini was responding to a question about whether the state broadcaster would be able to pay salaries given the financial situation that was presented to the National Assembly earlier in the day.

“We are in a very financially dire situation and it is the reason why we pushed very hard to get the turnaround approved by the board.

“We now have taken the portfolio committee through this turnaround so they understand [what] we are driving to get the SABC on a better footing‚” he said.

Makhathini was speaking after a six-hour meeting with the portfolio committee on communications.

He said the broadcaster had already been struggling to pay independent producers and until now had been prioritising employees’ salaries.

It has been 16 months since the then interim SABC board requested a government guarantee to be able to borrow money, in May 2017.

The broadcaster is yet to receive the guarantee.

TimesLIVE understands that the SABC has received a disclaimer audit opinion from the auditor-general for the 2017/ 2018 financial year‚ which puts it in an even more difficult position in terms of securing a loan.

The SABC presented a 104page document which detailed the turnaround plans.

In August, the SABC board revealed it was engaging with labour unions at the SABC about possible retrenchments.

It revealed to MPs on Tuesday that employee costs were the major cost driver, at R3.1bn – 42% of its total expenditure.

Programming‚ film and sports rights came second at R1.7bn‚ followed by signal distribution and linkage costs (R718.1m) and broadcast costs (R486.6m).

A presentation by human resources group executive Jonathan Thekiso showed that 1,100 of the SABC’s 3,478 employees were in management positions.

CEO Madoda Mxakwe said they had about 495 personnel in management and not 1‚000, who accounted for about R540m of the R3.1bn.

He did not provide an explanation for the 1‚100 mentioned in the presentation.

Thekiso blamed the bloated top structure on “irregular salary increases to numerous employees where we saw these employees being promoted . . . within a short space of time”.

There was also a blatant disrespect of recruitment policies and processes in appointments and promotions.

Thekiso said there were also payments of “critical skills allowances” where a role could not be perceived as critical.

“We are reversing some of these things.”