Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Save our SABC - Union Bemawu's open letter to parliament's communications committee


Dear and Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee,

We are the employees of the SABC, our public broadcaster.

It is October 2017.

October is the most beautiful month of the year. Not for us. In fact, the past few years was hell at the SABC. Our public broadcaster became the private fiefdom of politics – again. We walked tall, doing our jobs. We did not get involved in politics, but were. We became targets. Upstanding woman and men, at the cost of their employment and livelihood tried to protect the integrity and sacrosanctity of what belongs to us - more than to everyone else - as it feeds our children, pay for their education, allow us to breathe and live – our employer.

We had casualties.

Our brothers and sisters were hunted, again. This time for the truth. The very human rights our fathers and mothers died for, were tortured, incarcerated and harassed for, reduced to nothing.

It was the door or the window.

Our colleagues were purged – for being honest, for having integrity, for saying no to corruption, for upholding corporate governance, for being good employees!

The SABC died!

It died while men and women were sitting in the green chairs of the people.

The majority of us kept quiet, we were scared. You kept quiet too, maybe you were scared too.

We saw brother pitted against brother, and we became driftwood in a stormy ocean, the grass under the Elephants feet. We kept quiet when the paperless man crossed the Sand River and arrived in office. We kept quiet when the first Board unceremoniously left office, then the second… We kept quiet when the SABC received an audit disclaimer. We were proud when it only received a number of qualification the next year. We kept quiet when the SABC continued to post massive losses. We were proud when the SABC received less audit qualifications the following years. We kept quiet when Protest Policies were enforced. We kept quiet when several competent courts made legal findings. We kept quiet when the first SIU Report was issued. We kept quiet after more losses were posted by the SABC.

We kept quiet when 8 journalist were fired.

We kept quiet when on every major newspaper’s front page we saw exposes of what appears to be major corruption and mismanagement at the SABC. We kept quiet when none of us had seen a business plan for 90% local content and the effect it would have on SABC revenue.

We kept quiet whilst the enforcers are still employed, unprocedurally appointed and clearly not qualified. Those who signed the dismissal letters of the SABC 8.

Well, we did not exactly kept quiet, we made a little noise, like you. But we never went for the kill. We did not stop the madness in its tracks. When the cameras turned, the people’s green chairs were soft and comfortable.

It is said retrospection is an exact science. We learn from science. 

We do not have a Board at the SABC.
There is no approved Government Guarantee.
The SABC is bankrupt.
The enforcers are still enforcing.
We have the lowest morale ever at the SABC.

Hard working, loyal competent employees have not received a salary increase. Not even an inflation based increase, just to enable us to keep up with living costs. Dedicated employees who lowered their heads, both in shame for their employer but also to do their work - for how long still, no-one knows. Us employees, not responsible for any decisions, loss or reputational damage to the SABC.

No major decisions can be taken, no posts filled, no business as it is supposed to happen. Simply because there is no Board and depth in the current management.

We have a junior, previous-regime-unprocedurally-appointed acting GCEO, a similarly appointed, past retirement date COO who claims to not properly understand English, an acting CFO from a defunct Sales & Marketing Division managed by another, similarly appointed person, whose division is giving back money to advertisers due to a defunct Landmark system faster than it arrives at the SABC.

The situation at the SABC is abnormal. Extremely abnormal. There is a painful silence. We are quiet, again. You and us. Not learning from science?

Is it not time for you first, to now fold your arms, withhold your labour and tell the President you will do nothing further until he confirms the appointment of the Board, ensure the government guarantee is approved and employees at the SABC receive a salary increase?

Before we do?

ISSUED BY The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU)

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