Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Embattled former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who on Monday lost a cost order to personally pay in a case against the public broadcaster’s controversial ban of protests in 2016, maintains he is not to be blamed for the organisation’s financial woes.

Earlier this year, Motsoeneng approached the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn the Labour Court’s ruling, but his leave to appeal was struck off the roll. Yesterday the country’s apex court, the Constitutional Court, dismissed Motsoeneng’s appeal.

Motsoeneng banned the broadcasting of violent protests which saw the so-called SABC 8 being unlawfully fired at the time. He however denied that it was his call to dismiss them.

“People who blame me for the financial crisis at the SABC are clueless about running a broadcaster. If you look at the issues of the SABC, I was the only person in the executive who was a broadcaster.

“Who has done everything including journalism and presenting? I was able to assist the board including the management to deal with broadcasting,” said Motsoeneng.

The cash-strapped SABC intends to retrench 981 employees as a result of restructuring across all the business units and operations of the SABC.

Of the 2400 freelancers, 1200 will be affected.

Motsoeneng has however punched holes in the present board’s leadership, saying that the crisis at the broadcaster required an effective strategy which the board lacks.

“What is worrying me about this current leadership, to show that they are clueless is that, if you have a crisis your focus should be on how you deal with the crisis.

“They say that they will regroup and recoup money paid irregularly. That is not a strategy, you’re not even sure whether you’re going to recover that money. These are court matters, they don’t have the power to regroup money. You can’t fix the SABC’s current crisis by regrouping money,” said Motsoeneng.

The SABC made a loss of R622 million in the year to end-March, an improvement on the restated loss of R1 billion the previous year.

The broadcaster is expected to report to Parliament on its way forward after the Portfolio Committee on Communications and trade unions rejected its proposed retrenchments, saying that it should rather consider cost-cutting measures before laying off employees.

The SABC has however said its situation is likely to worsen with a projected net loss of R804.9m for the 2018/19 financial year unless the SABC embarks on drastic and further cost-cutting measures. The SABC’s Neo Momodu said: “Management’s efforts have seen some positive green shoots, resulting in a 6.2% growth in revenue, quarter-on-quarter. But this is not enough given the massive cost drivers and in particular the extraordinarily high wage bill in relation to revenue.

“To put this into context, the SABC is a R7.2 billion revenue generating company with a salary bill of R3.1 billion, close to 43% of the SABC’s costs. The current ratio of revenue to wages is not sustainable given the SABC’s dismal financial situation,” said Momodu.

Despite calls from unions and Parliament that the broadcaster should first explore alternatives before considering retrenchments, the SABC said it would not be able to pay salaries by February if it did not retrench staff.

Political Bureau