Picture: LEFTY SHIVAMBU
Picture: LEFTY SHIVAMBU

It may be years too late, but the SABC is finally showing that it has the stomach to do what it must to restore credibility. This week, it announced that it is retrenching 621 staff, after nine months of negotiations.

It wasn’t a walk in the park. At one stage, the ham-fisted communications minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, intervened to try to stop job cuts, but CEO Madoda Mxakwe stuck to his guns.

In the annual report, Mxakwe says the broadcaster was determined to address the SABC’s "disproportionate employee compensation costs, high signal distribution costs and a lack of required skills for a digitally enabled broadcasting environment". The problem was, we’d heard promises of reform before, followed by exactly zero execution. This week’s action is a welcome change.

Still, the retrenchments aren’t the silver bullet to fix all the broadcaster’s ills — not least because often it’s the most talented staff, who have options, who leave.

Nonetheless, the R3bn wage bill had to be trimmed. But the SABC also has to become leaner, sharper and a more compelling vehicle for both the public and advertisers. That’s the only way to push revenue up from last year’s R5.6bn back to the R8bn of five years ago.

For now, however, Mxakwe has made a bold move by doing what he promised — it’s a decisive break from the past.

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