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SABC retrenchments are still on, as board member reveals divide over Section 189 process

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Nov 18, 2020

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Johannesburg – More than 400 jobs are back on the line at the SABC after a short-lived victory which saw the public broadcaster’s group executive for news withdraw retrenchment notices late on Tuesday afternoon.

A heated and emotional meeting between SABC management and newsroom staff saw Phathiswa Magopeni, the group executive for news and current affairs, succumb to the pressure she faced from staff who were pleading with management to stop the retrenchments.

There was a blackout as staff refused to go on air in light of the looming retrenchments at the public broadcaster.

The SABC announced a net loss of R511 million in Parliament on Tuesday when it presented its annual report for 2019/20.

In an urgent update, released on Wednesday morning, the SABC said: “In light of the unfortunate incident which took place at our news division last night, please note that the Section 189 process is continuing as planned.

“SABC management and its board apologise for any confusion that was created yesterday afternoon.

“Management will engage with the news team on the concerns that they have raised.”

Last week, the SABC said it planned to issue retrenchment notices to 400 workers in a bid to save R700m a year for the next three years.

The SABC said it would restructure the organisation, freeze salaries for three years, end the leave encashment policy and review its sick and annual leave policies in a bid to make the public broadcaster viable.

It also bemoaned non-compliance of TV licence repayments by members of the public and said it was exploring avenues to use the DStv – with over 10 million subscribers – as a collection agency for the public broadcaster.

Speaking to SABC News on Wednesday morning, deputy board chairperson Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi, said the board was divided on retrenchments.

She said at least five board members – including herself – were against retrenchments at the SABC.

“Some on the board do not agree with the Section 189 process.

“We feel there must be better consultation and we feel that the Section 189 takes the SABC backwards instead of forwards.

“Some on the board have been pushing this issue of the Section 189 very vigorously, but some of us feel that the Section 189 process will have detrimental effect on the turnaround strategy of the SABC,” she said.

Mohlala-Mulaudzi said the SABC could not afford to lose some of the expertise it had and said the retrenchments were making people frustrated and unhappy.

She called on a proper process of engagement with staff and unions on the matter.

“Watching what happened on TV yesterday brought to the fore that those of us who do not agree must speak out and say we are not unanimous on this matter,” she said.

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