The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The SABC has hit back at a report that it plans to cut a third of its staff as part of a turnaround plan at the state-owned entity, saying that retrenchments are not on the cards at this time.

“Currently there is a skills audit under way, under the auspices of the department of communications, and following this process the results of the skills audit in relation to staff optimisation will be fully engaged with all stakeholders, including organised labour and employees of the SABC,” spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu said in a statement on Sunday.

The statement came after the Sunday Times reported that the jobs of a third of the broadcaster’s staff were at stake as part of a turnaround plan that included the closure of five offices.

The SABC, which is  the main source of news and commentary for most South Africans, is on the verge of collapse and has warned that it could be forced to go off the air  unless the government quickly comes to its rescue.  It has requested a  R3.2bn government guarantee to stay afloat.

Last month finance minister Tito Mboweni declined the SABC’s request. 

In January the SABC announced that it was halting moves to retrench more than 2,000 permanent staff and freelancers, pending a skills audit. The retrenchment process was seen as crucial to cut costs and restore its finances.

Four SABC directors resigned in late 2018 in the wake of a scathing letter by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to the board in which she accused the nonexecutive directors of not acting in the best interest of the public broadcaster as they pressed on with retrenchments.

On Sunday Mthembu asked that the cash-strapped broadcaster be given the opportunity to finalise its funding application, “in order not to create panic and uncertainty among SABC employees and the public at large”.

Though Mboweni declined to grant the SABC the guarantee, he said in a letter that he recognised the immediate need for the public broadcaster to be given  some form of assistance.

He previously said at a media briefing before delivering his budget speech in parliament in February that the SABC should seriously consider restructuring its operations, including merging radio stations and selling off some of its assets.