[Editorial Comment] Ruthless clean-out needed at SABC

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

The quagmire which is the SABC right now does not need a turnaround plan. It requires an entire blood transfusion along with a string of organ transplants thrown in for good measure. The public broadcaster is desperately ill.

Its masters may have spent the better part of six hours telling MPs how it is up to its neck in debt to a point it may not be able to foot November’s salary bill, but it is glaringly evident this is a case of having to confront the wages of sin.

Human resources group executive Jonathan Thekiso has painted an astonishing picture of irregular salary increases to numerous workers while also revealing that one in every three employees is in a management position.

Given his position he should know, but his CEO, Madoda Mxakwe, then contradicts his figure of 1,100 bosses by slashing the number by more than half, begging the question of not who has his finger on the pulse at Awkward Park, but whether there is any pulse at all.

We should not be surprised.

It is institutionalised chaos of this nature which allowed the likes of former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to rise through the ranks and execute so much damage while dexterously engineering his self-enrichment.

In appealing to viewers to pay their TV licences in one breath and pleading with the government to bail it out in the next, the corporation is looking for a way out of the immediate quicksand.

But that swollen top structure is the reason for the R3.1bn wage bill which is simply not tenable.

The past incompetence of management and board members in allowing the rot to fester will not be easy to lance, but it has to be reversed if the SABC is to deliver to the public its chief mandate: a credible public broadcaster.

One which serves only one interest – that of the people. Any so-called turnaround strategy will have to be ruthless, necessitating massive restructuring that will not just prune, but eradicate unnecessary staff and other expenses.

Hurricane Hlaudi has come and gone – it is time to start the repair work in earnest.