The SABC building.

CAPE TOWN - The DA on Thursday called for a briefing on the apparent liquidity issue at the SABC after news broke that the public broadcaster could not pay its service providers and producers for July. 

On Wednesday, a letter circulated in which the SABC’s group executive for television, Nomsa Philiso, informed the public broadcaster’s service providers and producers that it would not be able to pay them for July “due to the current liquidity challenge experienced”.



The authenticity of this letter has since been confirmed by the SABC’s spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago.

Kganyago said he was surprised that a stakeholder had decided to leak the SABC's letter to the media. 

Kganyago, although acknowledging the veracity of the circular and its contents, refused to be drawn into disclosing the extent of the SABC’s self-diagnosed financial afflictions.

“That letter was written to stakeholders, we didn’t issue a statement. We wrote a letter to stakeholders – to people we are in business with. And we expect them to respond to us in the form of a letter. As a matter of courtesy, we cannot engage our stakeholders through the newspapers or a radio station,” was Kganyago’s emphatic response. 

That is why we didn’t issue a statement to talk to them (the service providers) because we respect our stakeholders… That is something which we are clear about,” Kganyago said.

He said he was not in a position to know when the service providers would comment on the notice of non-payment, saying the response was at the respective contractors’ discretion.

“We are writing to them, not as a group, we are writing to individual stakeholders,” Kganyago said. “The fact of the matter is that if I write you a letter and you have issues with the contents, you will respond to me. You are not going to go to a newspaper or a radio station and say ‘I don’t like what they have written in here’."

Phumzile Van Damme, the DA Shadow Minister of Communications said on Thursday that It was disappointing that the public once again has to be informed about the SABC’s financial challenges through media reports. 

Furthermore, in the interest of transparency and openness, the SABC ought to have informed Parliament’s Communications Committee of its financial distress, said Van Damme.

The DA said it would write to the chairperson of the Communications Committee, Humphrey Maxegwana, to request that the committee convene as a matter of urgency in order to be briefed by the SABC on these latest revelations and to provide a plan of action on how they will resolve it.

Van Damme said: "The financial crisis at the SABC has a direct impact on job security for many, as reports suggest that five production companies have been affected by the SABC’s failure to pay its bills. The SABC’s financial crisis has allegedly resulted in some producers having to take out loans to stay afloat.

"If the SABC is to support the development of local television and music, it must make sure that they are paid, and on time. These are often struggling artists with families to feed, bills and employees to pay."

In March, The Star reported that the public broadcaster was owed R25.5 billion in TV licence fees over the past three years. 

This caused the SABC to write off more than R4.5bn of unpaid debts of over a million “invalid” accounts in the 2016/17 financial year, according to a written response to van Damme.

This is a developing story.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE