Johannesburg – The government on Wednesday urged the SABC to consider every viable option to save jobs, hours after the troubled public broadcaster was forced to withdraw retrenchment letters following an outcry from workers.
The disgruntled employees had planned a blackout at the South African Broadcasting Corporation after the financially strapped company said it was cutting 400 jobs to try to get onto a more viable trajectory.
In a statement on Wednesday, the department of communications and digital technologies said Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and other senior officials had held an urgent meeting with the broadcaster’s board on Tuesday night over the crisis.
“The purpose of the meeting was for the board and executive management of the SABC to account to the minister on the merits of continuing with the retrenchment process … in light of disturbing developments at the public broadcaster on Tuesday,” it said.
“The minister took the opportunity to implore the SABC board to consider all possible options, with an aim to preserve jobs.”
The department said the SABC board would appear before Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications on Wednesday morning to provide an account of the retrenchment process and contingencies in place to mitigate the current strife with employees and unions.
“I would like to call on the employees of the public broadcaster to exercise restraint and patience during this period of intervention by the Department and Parliament,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
Her department issued the statement hours after the SABC withdrew letters of dismissals on Tuesday night following a meeting between management and workers after fraught day of recriminations, some of which played out on social media.
A video clip which went viral on Twitter showed a well-known senior SABC journalist imploring a company executive during a newsroom meeting not to go ahead with the retrenchment process, surrounded by colleagues who voiced their agreement.
SABC management has said the job reductions are a necessary process after it exhausted all other options to ensure the broadcaster’s sustainability.
On Tuesday, the company reported a net loss of R511 million for 2019/20, while revenue fell 12 percent year-on-year to R5.7 billion, mainly due to a drop in advertising.
The South African National Editors’ Forum said it was concerned about the instability at the SABC and called on its leadership to continue fulfilling its public mandate by ensuring that budget cuts did not curtail critical services, including African language and regional programming.
It urged the SABC to ring-fence core news and current affairs posts and not compromise its core public mandate of news delivery.
African News Agency (ANA)