SABC chair Bongumusa Makhathini. Picture; SIMPHIWE NKWALI
SABC chair Bongumusa Makhathini. Picture; SIMPHIWE NKWALI

The lack of government support for the troubled SABC is “demoralising” and the public broadcaster is finding it difficult to implement its turnaround strategy without the state’s financial support, SABC board chair Bongumusa Makhathini testified at the state capture inquiry on Monday.

The broadcaster, which remains the only source of news and commentary for millions of South Africans, is technically insolvent. Its falling revenue means it cannot service debt of almost R2bn and it is on the brink of collapse. It has requested a R3.2bn government guarantee to stay afloat and to pay off some of its debt, but its bid for funding has so far been unsuccessful, largely due to its failure to meet some of the Treasury’s conditions.

“The situation the SABC finds itself in today, it’s as a result of all these lapses that happened over previous years as a result of failure by previous boards and management to do what was responsible and what was in line with the mandate of the SABC.

“In terms of adherence to our own policies, in terms of making sure there is prudence in the manner resources of the SABC were used, it was all compromised and that’s why we find ourselves where we are,” Makhathini said.

But turning things around is difficult without adequate support. 

“It becomes very hard, even for us as a board, if the support necessary for them to implement a turnaround strategy is not given. There are no resources given for us to be able to fund what needs to be done. It becomes impossible and demoralising for us as the board and the executive,” he said.

“In November 2017, an application went in by the board to help SABC out of the situation it was faced with. In terms of what we get from government, the SABC has a number of streams for revenue: 85% is commercial revenue, about 13% comes from TV licences, and the government gives us 3%, which may amount to about R200m. We still don’t have the funding,” he said.

Describing how the broadcaster was captured, Makhathini said transformation is sometimes used as a concept to hide corruption.

“My understanding of how capture has materialised in most of the state-owned enterprises is that credible people get victimised. They get pushed out and frustrated,” he said.

In some cases it got to a point where people were attacked personally and their lives were put at risk.

“It’s still a reality for us. We are still living under those circumstances where you worry about your safety just for trying to do the right thing. They will label you as somebody who is anti-transformation or they use transformation just to hide corruption,” he said.

With Staff Writer