In 2008, then SABC CFO Robin Nicholson warned in his letter in the broadcaster’s annual report that employee numbers and costs were running out of control. Describing the level of employee cost growth as “problematic”, Nicholson said any “major cost management strategy” at the SABC “will have to address a continued increase in headcount costs”. At the time, Dali Mpofu was the CEO, the SABC was seeing growth in revenue and profit, and the major concerns were whether the public broadcaster would be ready in time for the switchover to digital television and the Soccer World Cup. Fast-forward a decade, characterised by a revolving door of executives and board members and millions in golden handshakes, and the chickens have come home to roost. The SABC is getting ready to retrench an estimated 981 people, equal to about 30% of its permanent workforce of 3,376, and half of its 2,400-strong freelance team. By doing this, the broadcaster hopes to save R440m a year, excluding the cost of the...

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