Thursday, November 8, 2018

SABC personnel boss, Jonathan Thekiso, threatens SABC staffers before Friday's public protest action, saying the SABC will take 'disciplinary action' against workers who picket during their lunch break.

In a unintentionally hilarious inside memo widely doing the rounds in South Africa's TV industry and causing a lot of laughs, the personnel boss of the South African public broadcaster, Jonathan Thekiso, is warning SABC staffers that the SABC will take "disciplinary action" against anyone who takes part in Friday's planned protest action during their lunch break.

The apparently confused Jonathan Thekiso appears to be under the impression that a company or the South African public broadcaster can tell workers what they are allowed and not allowed to do during their lunch hour away from their desks: like if they're allowed to use the toilet, maybe go to Clicks, or buy a KFC Streetwise 5 - or not.

The beleaguered SABC plans to fire up to 981 of its 3 376 full-time staffers - a third of its total workforce, and will effectively fire 1 200 or half of its 2 400 freelance workers who will be gone by February 2019 in a brutal and massive planned retrenchment process that has SABC staffers up in arms.

Public protest action kicked off yesterday when SABC staffers, including basically all SABC News (DStv 404) on-air talent wore black in "mourning" of the highly criticised retrenchment plan.

Up next is Friday's public picketing at the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters in Johannesburg and at the SABC's regional offices countrywide. According to the Bemawu and CWU trade unions, this weekday picketing during the lunch hour will continue for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile momentum is building around yet another SABC strike, similar to the one in November 2017.

Before Friday's planned public protest and lunch hour picketing, Jonathan Thekiso, the SABC's head of human resources, in an internal SABC memo is telling SABC staffers that they are not allowed to take part in public picketing action during their lunch.

"The SABC wishes to reiterate that the planned 'total shutdown and or so-called peaceful demonstration' during lunchtime on Friday, 9 November 2018 is not in compliance with legislation ... and employees participating in such action will be subjected to disciplinary action," says Jonathan Thekiso.

No "shutdown" of the SABC is planned by SABC staffers on Friday, although Jonathan Thekiso apparently listened to the rumour-mill that's in overdrive inside SABC corridors as fear and anger over the draconian retrenchment plan are spreading.

Oddly, the SABC as the South African public broadcaster is supposed to support freedom of speech, freedom of self-expression, and to promote people voicing their opinions, but is once again trying to censor people and to clamp down on South Africans' basic rights.

Phumzile Van Damme, a member of parliament of the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party, in a statement on Thursday said that "it is not the SABC's business what its staff do during their lunchtime, and it is well within their rights to engage in protest".

"We have been informed by staff that no 'total shutdown' is planned, and it was a falsehood spread by the SABC that one was planned."

"The SABC's response to the protest is indicative of an authoritarian creep in an SABC that is bungling its retrenchment process."

"We maintain that a full-scale skill and salary audit should have been conducted to prevent arbitrary job losses at the public broadcaster," says Phumzile Van Damme.

"The SABC board and management are due to appear before the communications committee next week Tuesday and the DA will not hesitate to take on the SABC for its insensitive, arrogant and poor management of its retrenchment process."