Wed, 27 Jan 2021

The heartbreak at seeing the demise of the SABC

23 Nov 2020, 16:11 GMT+10

It is heartbreaking to see institutions such as the SABC being technically phased out due to insatiable greed and maladministration.

This institution was instrumental in ushering democracy and remains a safeguard and promotes freedom of speech in a pluralistic society. It is the only hope for the poor and previously disadvantaged regardless of race and class.

Zwelakhe Sisulu, the former group chief executive officer (1994 to 1997), must be turning in his grave to see such callous behaviour of the management using staff reductions as a key performance indicator.

Attributed to Sisulu's tenure is the vigorous transformation of the SABC. His model provided for 11 national unilingual public broadcasting services in which he sought to seek redress of historical imbalances. Under Peter Matlare (2001 to 2005) the SABC enjoyed profitability and successfully introduced a corporate culture.

Indeed, in 1996 the organisation experienced a structured retrenchment process in line with the transformation mandate. Human suffering was minimised unlike today where there is massive retrenchment looming. The organisation continued to make profits and stayed afloat, however.

READ | Opinion: SABC crisis: This is a watershed moment for independent public broadcasting

When the public broadcaster started haemorrhaging funds, the situation could have been arrested early had it not been for cadre deployment.

The consequential effect of ethical inconsideration resulted in the disregard for skills set required for different job specs.

The human service's capital of the SABC was totally disarmed and the negative resultant effect was the bloating of staff. The organisation is involved in litigation currently after discharging some of the employees it presumes were wrongfully employed. This compromised the employment policy/procedures, skills and required academic standard aligned to job specifications.

Delinquent boards

The boards of the SABC have been disappointing and assumed to be delinquent. This was reflected by an inquiry by Parliament into the SABC board inquiry in 2017 under the chairmanship of the esteemed professor, Mbulahen Maguvhe.

It was demonstration enough that both management and the boards of the SABC have been a complete letdown. It is worrying that as a result of mismanagement, the public broadcaster has lost its dominance of the airwaves. The downward trend of the SABC is likely to continue indefinitely as long as the ANC-led government continues to abdicate its oversight role.

Management is being paid exorbitant salaries and my suspicion is that if they forge ahead with retrenchments, they will significantly retrench news staff under the pretence that news is not bringing in revenue.

Meanwhile, it is the very news that is keeping the flames of democracy alive. Imagine, one day waking up to be told the BBC is off the air. That would not happen.

If Channel Africa, which broadcasts in six major African languages, is shut down, you will run the risk of isolating South Africa from the African continent.

READ | Mbhazima Shilowa: SABC retrenchments: Role of public broadcaster needs to be defined

I hope we don't become myopic and close down 24-hour news and become the dark continent on our own.

Collapsing the public broadcaster is tantamount to collapsing democracy which is a major instrument in holding the government to account. We cannot muzzle the society now.

For far too long, it has been a free-for-all and the ANC must take responsibility for the current state of state-owned enterprises in the country.

If neglected, the SABC could easily reverse the gains made in 1994.

It is unfortunate that the SABC has not been proactive in positioning itself in the digital age and Fourth Industrial Revolution. As a result, the organisation is finding itself competing in unfamiliar territory and unchartered space of media ownership (oligarchy) where dog eats dog.

I am extremely flabbergasted by the turn of events at the SABC seeing things fall apart.

There is still a big South African story to be told and with the SABC collapsing that might never be.

Source: News24

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