Fractures have emerged within the SABC board over its retrenchments, with some board members distancing themselves from the process that led to workers revolting and threatening to plunge the public broadcaster into a total blackout.
The SABC was on Tuesday forced to withdraw dismissal letters its news division had already sent to its employees who are set be retrenched, after newsroom staff refused to go on air and called for heads to roll within management.
The corporation plans to fire about 400 employees, whom it claims are redundant and don’t fit in with its new newsroom structure. Workers said they were never consulted before it was implemented.
While SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini insisted the restructuring was a necessary part of the organisation’s turnaround strategy, deputy chairperson Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi indicated on Wednesday she and other board members were opposed to the move.
Mohlala-Mulaudzi stressed the SABC would be failing in its public interest mandate if it resolved to firing the hundreds of employees who faced the chop, whom she described as critical stakeholders.
She said “We need to listen and I really believe that with further engagement, even at our board level, people’s positions may change.
“We need to engage so that we make sure we have a win-win solution, an institution that is viable, that does not request another bailout and over and above, that we have a comfortable and productive workforce,” she said.
Mohlala-Mulaudzi said five board members remained opposed to the retrenchment plans and added more members were likely to reject the plan after the revolt by workers on Tuesday.
The ANC-led alliance also threw its weight behind the SABC workers following a meeting of its secretariat on Tuesday.
In a statement, the alliance secretariat said “The Alliance Secretariat denounced the intransigence displayed by those driving retrenchments and neo-liberal restructuring at the SABC.
“It is our understating that the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications do not support the retrenchments”.
The Communication Workers Union indicated it would embark on a strike and force the public broadcaster into a blackout if the retrenchment plan was not totally abandoned by Friday.