The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Auckland Park. File picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA).

PARLIAMENT – Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on Wednesday promised urgent financial relief for the troubled South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and more in the following month.

Delivering her department's budget vote speech, Ndabeni-Abrahams said a tranche of earmarked financial assistance would be released within "the next 10 days, with the remaining balance in the next 45 days".

However, this would be conditional on the SABC complying with set conditions and requirements, relating to its turnaround plan.

The process would be overseen with the help of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, she added.

The SABC said earlier this week that its precarious financial situation was getting worse, as it was reported that Mboweni declined its application for a R3.2 billion government guarantee. 

The broadcaster has been waiting since March for a lifeline from the government as its liquidity crisis deepens. It has a debt of R1.8 billion.

National Treasury has reportedly set more than 10 conditions for extending financial help, including explanations as to why previous cash injections have failed to resolve its crisis.

Responding to Ndabeni-Abrahams's speech, Democratic Alliance communications spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme accused her of continuing a tradition of the ruling party meddling in the affairs of the broadcaster and failing to respect the new board.

"Her approach is that of one who considers herself above the law," she said, referring to the broadcasting act which guarantees the editorial independence of the SABC.

Van Damme added that the new board was the first in recent memory to act in a non-partisan manner, evidenced by equitable coverage of all political parties in the May elections.

"Is that why the minister is upset? Because the SABC is no longer under the minister's control?"

She said the previous management brought the SABC to edge by bleeding it dry of funds and added: "You appear to be determined to push it over the edge."

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Fana Mokoena said it was worrying that "we are still hearing stories about the politicisation of the SABC".

He added: "The problem is not the turnaround strategy it is people, it is implementation and it is policy, right. This is how you fix the SABC, the SABC needs to depoliticised. We are hearing all kind of stories."

African News Agency (ANA)