Friday, September 27, 2019

After yet another SABC fire broke out staffers of the South African public broadcaster in Mbombela are left without a building to work in.

After yet another SABC fire broke out staffers of the embattled South African public broadcaster in Mbombela, Mpumalanga have been left without a building to work in while the SABC radio station Ligwalagwala FM didn't go off the air but has been affected.

SABC interim board members, current board members and top executives have warned parliament and the minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, for over a year that the lives of SABC personnel are being endangered since the struggling broadcasters hovering on the verge of financial collapse, can't afford to do and stopped doing routine maintenance at its buildings.

The latest fire impacting on the SABC's operation happened at the City Centre offices of the SABC in Mbombela where SABC staffers were evacuated and told to work from home and elsewhere using their laptops and not to return to the building.

The cause of the fire isn't yet known. Nobody was injured.

Ligwalagwala FM has remained on-air with the SABC implementing unspecified "temporary measures".

Vuyo Mthembu, SABC spokesperson, says  "The SABC can confirm that a fire broke out at its leased Mpumalanga offices and the fire emergency services from the Mbombela City Council were able to contain the fire".

"The health and safety of our employees is always a key priority and the SABC is happy to report that employees were evacuated in time and no injuries were reported. Investigations are being carried out to confirm the cause of the fire."

"Employees will re-occupy the offices once the offices have been declared safe. Our radio station Ligwalagwala FM is still able to broadcast as temporary measures have been put in place, however, operations have been affected pending the completion of the investigations".

In June 2019 a fire in the cafeteria in the SABC's Radio Park building prompted the evacuation of staff with 15 people who were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.

The same Radio Park building was evacuated in May 2019 during a diesel spill that saw thousands of litres of diesel flood the building and down the elevator shaft when a power outage caused the building to switch to its back-up power generator located on the 15th floor. "A failure of the equipment led to the diesel tank overflowing," the SABC said.

SABC executives, as well as former and current SABC board members have been warning for months that the SABC has stopped and failed to do maintenance due to the broadcaster's precarious financial position with the SABC hovering on the edge of collapse and warning that the SABC's "Day Zero" and a black-on-air situation could happen any day.

In November 2018, the former SABC board member Mathatha Tsedu told and warned parliament and the minister of communications that the SABC is turning into a potential death trap.

"We haven't maintained our buildings for a very long time. Last week a huge chunk fell from the reception of the Radio Park building. The people responsible for the maintenance of our buildings have been warning that there are cracks there - something is going to happen. But we don't have the money. We're only dealing with what is broadcast critical," he said.

"If there is a crack up there and it doesn't stop us from going on air, we will not fix it until that rock falls down. And one day, it is going to fall on someone."