NEWS

SABC Too Broke To Pay Its Bills, Says Communications Minister

DA MP Phumzila van Damme called for former minister Faith Muthambi to be held accountable for the financial state of the public broadcaster.

11/05/2017 05:59 SAST | Updated 11/05/2017 10:57 SAST
AMA / Corbis via Getty Images
An SABC Satellite truck beaming back television signals from the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, one of the host stadiums for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The SABC will not have the resources to meet its financial obligations.

These were the words of Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo on Wednesday afternoon as she admitted this during questions to the financial cluster in the National Assembly.

Responding to Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Phumzile van Damme, Dlodlo said the public broadcaster will make a loss of R509-million for the fourth quarter of the financial year, which ended on March 31. She said this was an unaudited figure.

Van Damme said it was "an absolute outrage" that Dlodlo's predecessor, Faith Muthambi, allowed the SABC to be plundered only to be moved to a different portfolio, that of public service and administration. She said steps must be taken against Muthambi.

This sentiment was echoed by EFF MP Thembinkosi Rawula, who referred to Muthambi as the "dishonourable Faith Muthambi". Muthambi wasn't present in the house.

Improved collections

Earlier on Wednesday, the interim SABC board presented an update on the steps they had taken since assuming their work in mid-April. Khanyisile Kweyama, chairperson of the interim board, said they had submitted a funding proposal to Dlodlo earlier on Wednesday. Kweyama didn't want to divulge further details publicly before Dlodlo had taken a look at it.

In the afternoon, Van Damme asked Dlodlo how much money the SABC had applied for.

"I'm not aware that they sent it the last couple of hours," answered Dlodlo.

She said her office and the Treasury have been working with the SABC to resolve the broadcaster's financial problems. Some of these measures include a moratorium on capital expenditure; reduced usage of consultants and improved collections on licences.

"The collection of licences is abysmal," said Dlodlo.

ANC MP Moses Tseli said the "public broadcaster became the centre for political battles". He asked what critical issues must be addressed immediately.

"The board is seized with developing a turnaround strategy," Dlodlo said, adding that she hadn't met with the board on this strategy yet.

Unprofitable

Rawula asked if she would protect the board like Muthambi protected the previous board and former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

"I am not in the business of protecting anybody. I am in the business of working with everybody to turn it around," said Dlodlo, to applause from the ANC benches.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh described the SABC's fourth quarter loss as "quite shocking" and asked if there were plans to shut down any programming.

Dlodlo said one of the things they were doing was checking which radio and television programmes were unprofitable. "We're also looking at a different funding model."

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