The SABC headquarters in Auckland Park. Photo: Cara Viereckl

The SABC is embarking on a sweeping restructuring drive set to slash almost half of its top management. The Sunday Independent understands that as part of the turn-around strategy, which is to be unveiled in Parliament next month, the troubled public broadcaster could fire as many as 40 managers to overhaul its bloated top structure.

SABC 1 general manager Ray Nkwe; Thami Ntenteni, head of public broadcasting services: radio; Collin Mackenzie, general manager: entertainment and Nhlanhla Sibisi, acting content enterprises head, are top on the list of senior managers who have been shown the door by the corporation.

Mackenzie and Nkwe confirmed that they had received letters informing them of their sacking, as acting group CEO Robin Nicholson, with the blessing of the SABC board, wields the proverbial axe.

“I can confirm that I got the letter,” Mackenzie said, adding that he would not comment further as he was still in negotiations with the SABC.

The news of their departure comes hot on the heels of the axing of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s wife Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande, whose position was dissolved to cut costs.

Ntombela-Nzimande reportedly received a R1.7 million retrenchment package.

Talk was rife that controversial group executive manager in the office of Nicholson, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, a known ANC and President Jacob Zuma supporter, was earmarked to replace her.

The SABC was preparing to present its turn-around plan to Parliament on March 15.

The radical changes at the corporation’s helm come in the run-up to the local government elections, during which political parties will be scrambling for coverage.

Sources at the SABC said the public broadcaster’s bosses noted at last week’s workshop on the turn-around strategy that there will be drastic changes at senior level.

SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane and the leadership of the three unions at the corporation were present at the meeting, held in Aloe Ridge, outside Krugersdorp.

A board member who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Sunday Independent that the SABC’s management structure had to be cut down to size because there were “too many managers” running the show.

The member said the board wanted to cut down the 80-plus management structure to at least 40.

“We want to change, there were too many managers,” the member said.

It is understood that five of the top 15 executives were on their way out.

“There was a time when people were hired willy-nilly,” the board member said.

It was hoped that the reduction of the headcount would help the SABC save millions, after it was R800m in the red at some point.

In November 2009, the government gave the troubled corporation a R1 billion bailout and demanded that it produce a detailed plan with cost-cutting measures to get R500m more. However, the turn-around strategy caused ructions in the board and saw former CEO Solly Mokoetle resigning last month after a protracted battle with the board.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago refused to be drawn on the contents of the strategy, saying the document had to be presented to Parliament before it could be discussed in public.

“It would be improper to talk about the contents of the turn-around strategy before it is presented to Parliament,” he said.

Kganyago said the departure of senior managers at the SABC could not necessarily be attributed to the restructuring but was a normal occurrence as many were on contracts, some of which were not being renewed.

“All the executives at the SABC are on contract and people’s contracts expired before and they left even before the turn-around strategy,” he said.

Unions at the SABC welcomed the move to reduce the top structure of the organisation.

Communication Workers Union deputy secretary Thabo Mogalane said:

“The structure was bloated and full of unnecessary positions,” he said. - Sunday Independent