File picture: African News Agency/ANA Archives.

Johannesburg - Trade unions on Thursday slammed the hefty remuneration of SABC executives in the face of large-scale retrenchments at the public broadcaster.

This is after Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane dropped a bombshell by revealing that SABC group executives pocketed R24 million a year and advised the public broadcaster against retrenchments without finalising consultations.

Replying to an oral question in the National Council of Provinces from IFP's Mntomuhle Khawula, Mokonyane said the annual remuneration of current group CEO was R5.1 million, COO R4m and CFO R3m per year.

"These packages are significantly lower than those of previous directors. They amount to 1% of the salary bill and the overall benefits of 10 group executives amount to R24.7m," she said.

Mokonyane said the previous CEO received R7.2m, COO R15.4m with and CFO R4.1m.

The release of the figures come as pressure is mounting on SABC to discontinue with the retrenchments of about 2 000 employees and a push by the DA that the executives' salaries be made public.

It was an extraordinary move by Mokonyane to release remuneration of current executives as they are normally released an annual report at the end of the financial year.

Cosatu said it was silly for Mokonyane to want to explain the salaries of executives away by comparing those of the previous year.

"If you say the organisation is in crisis, then you must act like an organisation that is in crisis," spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.

He also said it was unfair that livelihoods were to be destroyed and yet someone earned R5m.

"How do you explain that some people are to be unemployed and others are given exorbitant salaries?" Pamla asked.

Bemusa president Hannes du Buisson said the salaries were shocking.

"It is shocking to hear that they earn that much a year. We believe there can be significant cuts."

He also said monies could be recovered from those that there were irregularly promoted.

But Khawula questioned the justification of the salaries in view of the financial situation of SABC where thousands faced retrenchments.

"People are to lose jobs and somebody earns R5.1m. As this government, what are you doing?" he asked.

Mokonyane said it was because of the exorbitant salaries that they engaged SABC board to turn around the public broadcaster before laying off workers.

"There has to be a review of the model of running SABC, including ourselves as lawmakers to review the funding model, how we attract skills ..."

She also said it has been agreed in government that there should be a turnaround task team comprising National Treasury, Department of Communications and SABC to reflect on the matters and that the board not implement Section 189 process.

"There has not been sufficient consultation and skills audit. We will continue to work on this," said Mokonyane, adding that the task team would give progress in three weeks time.

"It is the intention of SABC management to lay off staff. We continuously advise and instruct the SABC board not to until they followed Section 189 process," she said.

The DA's Farhat Essack said it was shocking that senior executives received R45m despite the R622 loss in the last financial year.

"Instead of taking action for failure, top executives are rewarded by the ANC government," Essack said.

Asked about the impact the retrenchments would have on the already demoralised staff, Mokonyane said there were serious challenges at SABC both financially and capacity to execute their mandate.

"Even as a self-respecting house we have to appreciate that we make an insignificant contribution to the functioning of SABC. Three percent of the required R11 billion."

She told MPs that the government as a shareholder has not agreed with what SABC on retrenchment, saying they have not complied with Section 189 and hence the outcry from labour.

"We do hope in the meeting with Treasury the board would appreciate they can’t lay off staff before developing a  better vision for SABC."

She said government wanted SABC to try everything such as skills audit and also staff training and reskilling in light of digital migration.

"Retrenchments must be the last after you deal with everything. The shareholder has not given a go ahead," Mokonyane said.

Political Bureau