SABC evacuates parts of TV centre in Covid-19 effort

The SABC building in Auckland Park./ Robert Tshabalala
The SABC building in Auckland Park./ Robert Tshabalala

The SABC has evacuated several parts of its TV centre building in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, with daily shows such as Morning Live, On-Point and Fullview now being broadcast from Nasrec.

The use of biometric scans for employee access was also suspended this week as all nonessential staff members are now working remotely after an employee tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

The infected employee was based in Johannesburg and was part of the news research unit housed in the TV centre building in Auckland Park.

Acting SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said: "The SABC can confirm that as part of its efforts to build resilience in its broadcasting environment during this period, the corporation has established an off-site broadcast area for some of its programmes. This alternative broadcast site has been operational since yesterday [Tuesday]."

She said the move was in line with efforts to ensure the SABC diversified its business operations and minimised the movement of people in its premises.

"We have also ensured that all nonessential staff members are enabled to work remotely. All the employees who worked very closely to the case confirmed have also been sent home," she said.

But the Broadcasting Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu), which welcomed the move, said it was happening more than a week late.

Bemawu spokesperson Hannes du Buisson said the public broadcaster had moved too slow. "We welcome the measures that have been put in place by the SABC by moving the broadcast to Nasrec and other events but those things should have happened a long time ago."

Du Buisson said they raised these issues with the SABC in a meeting on March 19 but the public broadcaster only started acting this week in comparison to other companies, including MultiChoice.

"Some of these measures were only implemented just three days ago, including people not required to use the biometric system... those things should have happened way faster," Du Buisson said.

The SABC this week also urgently requested residential addresses of freelance workers as it plans to provide them with transportation during the lockdown.

However, the union has raised issues with regard to shortages of sanitisers and other protective equipment including masks for employees currently at work.

Du Buisson said the Free State SABC office had gone for days without sanitisers, which were only delivered yesterday morning.

Seapolelo confirmed that they were experiencing shortages. "In terms of procuring of protective gear, indeed the supply of these essentials is in high demand as both individuals and companies are in constant need of them. SABC is doing everything possible to procure more of these essentials for its employees who work in the field and for its offices across the country.

"Currently, we have sufficient stock for sanitisers and gloves and we are waiting for the supply of masks, which is anticipated to take place this week."

The Johannesburg employee is the SABC's second Covid-19 confirmed case. The public broadcaster announced on Saturday that the employee had been on sick leave and was currently hospitalised. The first case was at the Kimberley office.


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