The financial crisis at the SABC has dragged on for almost a year.
Months after the SABC was made to believe that financial rescue was on its way, the SABC board and the public were left dumbfounded when Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams once again shifted the goalposts and announced that she would not give the public broadcaster a loan guarantee unless it presented a solid turnaround strategy.
This was news to the board, which was already implementing its plan.
The financial crunch means the SABC is unable to develop any original content, unable to pay creditors and, in a month or three, will be unable to pay salaries.
With debt standing at R1.8 billion, the SABC has asked for a R3.2 billion bank guarantee from the state. The City of Joburg and distribution network provider Sentech, as well as independent television producers, are high on the list of those suffering because the SABC cannot pay its bills.
An impression has been created of Ndabeni-Abrahams blowing hot and cold with the SABC, and being unable to give a clear, firm direction about its future and her expectations of the institution.
Her goalposts changed again when she previously refused to endorse a process by the SABC to retrench its staff, but this week moaned about its bloated structure. She seems to have delusions of grandeur about her role and powers, which she appears to believe are unlimited.
Earlier this year, we reported how she was withholding funds from the Independent Communications Authority of SA by refusing to approve its annual performance plan unless changes were made to it.
Ndabeni-Abrahams was an understudy to two controversial ministers, Dina Pule and Faith Muthambi, but she was expected to carve a more accountable path and help President Cyril Ramaphosa repair public institutions.
She is proving to be no different from the previous ministers who wanted to maintain and tighten the ANC’s control of the public broadcaster.
But now she has run into an independent board and an emboldened newsroom that refuses to be dictated to. We urge the president to ask the minister what her endgame is.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng et al took the SABC to the edge of the cliff.
Ndabeni-Abrahams appears to be determined to tip it over. Is this the legacy she wants for herself?