Following SABC’s plan to retrench over 2 000 workers, executives and trade union representatives who on Tuesday described the looming retrenchment and situation as “cutting heads”, “butchering 2 200 people put out on street”, a “public jamboree”, “milking a stone”, a “dire situation”, and saying that the “thick layer at management level” is unsustainable.

The beleaguered South African public broadcaster plans to fire up to 981 of its 3 376 full-time workers and do away with 1 200 of its 2 400 freelance workers by February 2019 as the SABC in a massive crisis once again hovers on the brink of financial collapse.

The DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme, said that SABC is a clear disaster waiting to happen.

“On Thursday, Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane revealed in Parliament the remuneration packages of the SABC’s top three executives. She revealed that the salaries of the chief executive, COO and CFO are R5.1 million, R4 million and R3 million respectively. The total remuneration for executive packages thus stands at R12.1 million”, Van Damme said.

“This is but a marginal R1.2 million decrease compared to the highly inflated R13.3 million paid to top management last financial year, largely as a result of huge yearly increases during the Hlaudi Motsoeneng era.”

Van Damme went on to add that the SABC was, therefore, misleading the public when they indicated that the salaries of “the executive management have been significantly reduced”.

The MP said that “it is also a pity that the Minister had to reveal these figures today. The DA has continuously asked SABC board to reveal the salaries of their top management, which they repeatedly refused to do, even when asked in Parliament.”

“We today also found out in a reply that the SABC has not conducted a skills audit before considering staff retrenchments,” Van Damme added.

According to Van Damme, the SABC board is not inspiring confidence and their attitude towards accountability needs to be set straight.

“We will not allow for a slide towards Hlaudi-esque arrogance. It must be nipped in the bud.”

We have gathered precepts from interviews granted by some members of the SABC earlier this week.

Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, in an interview with SABC News on Tuesday afternoon revealed that freelance workers cost the SABC R25 million per year, SABC executive directors are paid R12 million per year, and that the SABC’s group executives are paid R25 million per year.

It means that the SABC’s small group of top executives are paid as much as the 2 400 freelance workers employed by the SABC.

“Then there’s a very thick layer at management level. You have about 495 managers and the cost of that is about R620 million,” said Madoda Mxakwe.

With 3 376 full-time workers, it means that the SABC has one manager for every 7 people.

“What is very clear is that the organisation cannot be sustainable with this current structure.”

Madoda Mxakwe said “we have a bloated structure and it doesn’t make sense”.

“We are now in a dire financial situation. And as a broadcaster we are not able to meet our obligations financially on a month-to-month basis and essentially that affects our ability as a national broadcaster in terms of the public mandate that we have.”

Madoda Mxakwe was asked what else the SABC is cutting besides staff. “It’s a lot of things. We are looking at travelling, we’re looking at accommodation. All of these.” He said it’s “operational” and that “there’s a lot of things that we are doing there”.

Hannes du Buisson, Bemawu president, representing the biggest trade union inside the SABC, said Bemawu is shocked and saddened by the decision. “To cut heads, to butcher about 2 200 people, put them out on the street – it’s a quick solution but that is not necessarily the correct solution.”

Hannes du Buisson told SABC News in an interview on Tuesday that “there seems to be something sinister about this whole process. It seems that the current SABC management are hell-bent to get rid of current SABC employees and then want to fill those positions with other people from outside the SABC”.

Hannes du Buisson said SABC staffers are “gravely concerned” since South Africa’s national election is coming up in 2019. “The SABC traditionally would hire more people for that particular period of the election”.

“Going into election coverage with SABC staff morale at rock-bottom is not going to serve the public of South Africa.”

Aubrey Tshabalala, secretary-general of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said the trade union was similarly shocked by the SABC’s decision to start with planned retrenchments “and what we term as a public jamboree”.

“This management seems to have run out of ideas,” he said. “When we look at these managers we are basically milking a stone here.”

Aubrey Tshabalala said over-the-top (OTT) streaming services like Showmax, Netflix South Africa, Amazon Prime Video and others “broadcasting for free in this country they must pay a certain levy to balance the equation in terms of the funding model of the SABC”.

“It must sink in in these executive members this is what you’re driving: A public broadcaster. So if they are not fit to run a public broadcaster, they must tell us so that we can look into that area.”

Jonathan Thekiso, the SABC’s group HR boss, said  the SABC is also “looking to claw back in excess of R60 million” from former and existing executives and staffers at the broadcaster “which is as a result of irregular appointments, irregular salary increases and irregular promotions”.

From the now-fired former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng the SABC wants “back an amount in excess of R32 million” said Jonathan Thekiso.

Asked about staff and executive who were fired, decided to leave and got purged under Hlaudi Motsoeneng‘s reign of terror at the SABC with the help of so-called “Hlaudi-enforcers”, Jonathan Thekiso said “the SABC needs to ensure that it extends apologies to those respective employees who got purged, who were compromised as a result of activities of the previous administration”.

“So the SABC is in the process of issuing such apologies to the respective people.”

About the SABC’s planned firing of staffers, Jonathan Thekiso said “the SABC’s wage bill is sitting at almost half of revenue”. He said “the SABC right now is in a very, very bad shape. We are in a dire financial situation right now and one of the major cost drivers is essentially our wage bill.”

Asked about why the salaries of top SABC executives are not being revealed, Jonathan Thekisosaid “we have been very clear that the issue of divulging the salaries of senior executives” can’t happen because it gets published in the SABC’s annual report and must first be audited.

Some of SABC’s biggest financial blunders

Take a look at some of the SABC’s biggest financial blunders on the heels of the 189 retrenchment notice that the corporation issued to all employees earlier this week.

More than 2 000 employees could lose their jobs to save the broadcaster R440 million.

  •  The SABC hired auditing company Sekela Xabiso (SkX) to detect irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The contract was questioned because the value of the SkX contract amounted to R25 million which was contrary to the initial indication of R5 million made by the SABC. In addition, no documents had been made available to indicate the SkX contract was awarded through an open tender process.
  •  The broadcaster’s acting chief financial officer James Aguma admitted to Parliament’s oversight committee on communications that in its 2013/14 annual report the SABC had disclosed R3.3-billion in irregular expenditure. R990-million of that amount was incurred in the current year,  R1.36 billion was incurred in 2013 and R1 billion in 2012. Aguma also admitted that in the previous year, about R100 million was disclosed as irregular expenditure.
  • The SABC is also approaching the Labour Court to recover money irregularly paid as salary increases which were reported in 2014 by public protector Thuli Madonsela. The report documented irregular appointments, promotions and salary increases of some employees who are no longer with the company.
  • In 2016 cash-strapped SABC purchased an Audi A5 SUV worth R740 000 for the then SABC board chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe, while the company was struggling to stay afloat and at the time requested staff to take a salary cut. The vehicle is currently parked off at the broadcasters Auckland Park parking lot.
  • A report conducted by the auditor general in 2016 revealed that the SABC had awarded 71 contracts worth R150.7 million to “close family members, partners and associates of officials”.
  •  SABC announced in 2017 that legal action would be taken to recover millions from former executives Hlaudi Motsoeneng and James Aguma. Motsoeneng’s decision that the SABC should broadcast 90% local content cost the corporation about R183 million in television and R29 million in radio advertising revenue. This decision was made contrary to the policies of the corporation, principles of corporate governance” and in breach of legislation.
  •  As the COO of SABC Hlaudi Motsoeneng received a whopping R4.197 million annual salary package in the 2015/16 financial year, which made him the highest paid official at the public broadcaster. The SABC made a loss of R411 million in the previous financial year but still increased Motsoeneng’s salary by half a million rand. A report revealed that Motsoeneng received: a basic annual salary of R2.554million; the 13th cheque of R213 000; R945 000’s worth of expenses and other allowances; and employee benefits (contribution to a pension fund and medical aid) valued at R485 000.

Additional reporting from Iol and teeveetee

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Following SABC's plan to retrench over 2 000 workers, executives and trade union representatives who on Tuesday described the looming retrenchment and situation as 'cutting heads', 'butchering 2 200 people put out on street', a 'public jamboree', 'milking a stone', a 'dire situation', and saying that the 'thick layer...