PARLIAMENT, June 13 – The South African Broadcasting Corporation confirmed on Tuesday that it lost R1.1 billion in the last financial year and will need a lifeline from the government.
In the quarter that ended in March, the company bled R501 million compared to a target of limiting losses to R137 million. Its cash balance at the end of March was R32 million, chairwoman of the interim SABC board Khanyisile Kweyama said.
The figure emerged in a wide-ranging briefing to Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications that gave a picture of how the SABC would seek to right itself after the exit of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the controversial chief operating officer who was fired on Monday, and acting chief executive James Aguma who was suspended last month.
Kweyama said Motsoeneng would still face further disciplinary charges.
These would relate to irregular spending on his watch, including his salary increases, and would see the company try to recover the money it lost from him.
Kweyama said the SABC envisioned that the remainder of the disciplinary process would stretch over a month, but also expected that Motsoeneng would play for time.
“The pattern has been one of delay…we expect that there will be questions to seek to delay the process,” she said.
She said there would no parting pay-out for Motsoeneng as he had been fired. His attempt to secure a bonus of R11 million for his role in negotiating a contract with Multichoice would be left to the Special Investigating Unit to probe, she added, noting that it was not strictly a performance bonus.
Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said she took issue with the payment of bonuses at the SABC in general given the “dismal” performance of the broadcaster, but more specifically because there was no performance scale in place against which the work of an employee could be measured.
Dlodlo deferred a question as to how big a lifeline the SABC would need from National Treasury, saying she would submit an application from the board to National Treasury and respond next week.
The minister and chairwoman confirmed that suspended group CEO James Aguma had misled MPs when he claimed that the SABC bore no costs for broadcasting the Business Breakfast show of the Gupta-owned newspaper The New Age. It had in fact cost the company R20 million and the contract to air the show had been cancelled with immediate effect though it had almost a year to run.
Asked about two of Motsoeneng’s controversial policies, namely the ban on airing footage of violent protests and the local content quota, Dlodlo indicated that they would remain in place, to some extent and for reasons not related to him.
She said SABC1 had the most local content and was the most lucrative channel. It proved that South Africans wanted to listen to local content but the implementation needed to be nuanced and guided by the ANC’s policy.
That currently sets a ratio of 60 percent local and 40 percent foreign content. The SABC could not carry the financial burden of promoting local content alone, she said, adding that she was in discussion with the department of arts and culture because it should also play a role in this.
Dlodlo said it was standard for local broadcasters not to show footage of the bodies of killed citizens, and that the SABC would continue this tradition out of respect for human dignity.
“It has nothing to do with censorship,” she said.
– African News Agency (ANA)