Sunday, August 2, 2020

SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe in open letter says the South African public broadcaster has learnt from its mistakes, has been turned upside-down by Covid-19 and that urgent cost-cutting is only way to safeguard its future.

by Thinus Ferreira

Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, in an open letter published on Sunday, says that the bloated and cash-strapped South African public broadcaster has learnt from its mistakes, has been turned upside-down by the Covid-19 pandemic and that urgent ongoing cost-cutting now is the only way to safeguard the SABC's longterm future.

The financially struggling and extremely bloated SABC just turned 84 years old but its ongoing precarious position is being worsened by the ANC government that is placing undue pressure on the SABC board, together with unions Bemawu and CWU, not to go ahead with the planned axing of 600 permanent staff and 1 200 freelancers.

The struggling SABC, in sharp contrast to eMedia Investments and MultiChoice, pays a massive amount to staff salaries and already agreed in 2009 to axe its staff complement in order to get a R1.4 billion government bailout - a staff reduction requirement it never fulfilled.

Now the latest SABC board is once again trying to decrease the staff heavy SABC but are encountering massive resistance from the South African government and unions.

"Thanks to the intervention of parliament and civil society in 2016 the SABC is an independent, public service media institution and is now more than ever committed to delivering on its constitutionally derived public mandate," says Madoda Mzakwe in his open letter that was published Sunday in The Sunday Times.

"The SABC's public broadcast obligations are expensive. Overreliance on commercial revenue is fraught with risk because the market is driven by commercial factors."

"Globally, Covid-19 has turned the business landscape upside down. The SABC and the media have not been spared. The challenge is how to respond to the crisis. To mitigate the impact, the SABC is reducing costs as well as reviewing and driving sales and other revenues."

"For the future viability of the SABC, cost reductions are unavoidable, otherwise the institution will perpetually drain the public purse. This is neither desirable nor sustainable. The most difficult task of effective business leadership is to protect a business from threats and to build resilience to weather future adversities."

Madoda Mxakwe writes that the SABC's "executive team is working to improve efficiencies and reduce operating costs even further, while maintaining operational stability and sustainable productivity levels".

"The SABC has made significant achievements in dealing with the prior collapse of governance and financial malpractice. This has moved the SABC from a disclaimer audit to a qualified audit opinion."

"Our goal is not to attain just a clean audit but to create the right culture and systems to entrench good corporate governance."

"The need to ensure that the SABC becomes self-reliant sustainable and resilient has never been more urgent. The work over the past 9 months has laid a solid foundation."

"The decisions taken now and over the next 2 years will determine the ability of the SABC to survive as a proud and relevant institution to serve the public interest for the next 84 years and beyond," Madoda Mxakwe writes.