Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: THE SOWETAN
Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: THE SOWETAN

The SABC interim board has started working amid reports that the state-owned public broadcaster is facing its worst financial crisis and could fail to pay its employees and service providers.

New Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo seems to have given the interim board the green light to start with its duties, despite an instruction by the previous minister, Faith Muthambi, that the board should not start work until its members had been vetted by the State Security Agency.

Following a reshuffle of the Cabinet, Muthambi is now the minister of public service and administration.

Dlodlo met with members of the interim board on Tuesday behind closed doors during which the broadcaster’s financial troubles took centre stage.

Earlier in March, the SABC confirmed it was facing a financial crisis and was funding operations from dwindling reserves. The SABC treasurer had warned its management that the broadcaster would soon run out of cash unless it raised new funding urgently.

A confidential treasury risk committee report up to January 31 2017 indicated that cash reserves had plunged to R174m in December, down from more than R1bn in 2015. Dlodlo’s spokeswoman, Lebohang Mafokosi, confirmed on Tuesday that the minister had met with the interim board, but did not provide further details.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said that Dlodlo was satisfied that the interim board was properly appointed. "The meeting with the minister was followed by a special board meeting to deal with the urgent matter of the SABC fulfilling all its financial obligations, including payment of service providers. The interim board and the communications ministry shall remain engaged with this immediate challenge."

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said he hoped Dlodlo’s stance on the SABC would be a "significant departure" to that adopted by Muthambi. "We hope the minister chooses to adhere to constitutional responsibilities and that she encourages the interim board to sort out the crisis," said Bird.

Muthambi was blamed for the current crisis at the SABC and Parliament’s ad hoc committee which investigated the issues at the public broadcaster recommended that Zuma reconsider her desirability in the Cabinet. Zuma ignored this.

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