Communication Workers Union (CWU) rebukes a statement issued by the SABC indicating that the disruption of several radio platforms at the institution is blamed on power cuts. The statement was issued yesterday following disruptions that led to a series of broadcasting disarray. CWU believes that the statement by the SABC management is aimed at watering down the actual crisis at the broadcaster. The incompetence of the SABC management and the lack of appreciation and understanding the dynamics and complexity of running a public broadcaster has led to the said disruption. It is disingenuous for the leadership of the broadcaster to hide behind power outages as a reason behind a disruption that nearly led to a national crisis. The fact is that it is not the first time that the SABC experiences power cuts in its entire life span, the latest being Monday and Tuesday of this week, and in all these encounters there was no such disruption. The Thursday morning disruptions on the public broadcaster’s platforms is a tip of an iceberg of the underlying pilling challenges at the institution.
It is clear that SABC management had no contingency plan to bed down the transition challenges and the first critical point is that there was no Head of IT on site during this period to date. The absence of the IT resource is directly linked to the recent retrenchments. The challenges in the IT division can be attributed to non-payment and non-finalisation of contracts with the personnels in this area, these are the results of the senseless retrenchments. The second and equally important aspect is a depleting infrastructure in all SABC buildings, this is despite the fact that the SABC was granted a bailout with a condition to revamp infrastructure. The “bail out” money was received by the SOE but there was no improvement on the infrastructure, instead; workers were retrenched and the institution is deeply sinking in financial woes. The “Thursday disruption” was informed by many factors such as the Reuters system which feeds the Public broadcaster trading economy news that was not functioning. As a country, we were in no position to see how our currency was trading in the global economy; that on its own demonstrates the crisis at the public broadcaster. Another important system that was down is the NPS which is used as an editorial system. This meant that there could be no editing of news hence we were fed with some stale news. The SAP and the internet; both systems had never been disrupted by power failure before. Furthermore, there was insufficient water hence the toilets were not functioning properly at the Auckland Park offices during the course of this week. The SABC undermined all the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act as workers were subjected to work in unfavourable and dangerous conditions as there were no lights and with the escalators not working.
CWU condemn the management of SABC for targeting and charging workers who were in the forefront of our strike. The union warns the management of the Public Broadcaster not to embark in a process that seeks to undermine a freedom of expression, freedom of choice and freedom of association. CWU will continue to fight against the privatisation of the Public Broadcaster until
the battle is won.
On the local government elections, the Public Broadcaster is not ready to broadcast the elections. In the past, the SABC would have had an internal session with their news room to discuss the preparation on how they will be executing coverage and the deployment of journalists and supporting staff. The SABC news room is in the dark about the preparation on the coverage of the local government elections yet we are left with only a few weeks to the elections. This means that the public broadcaster has no plan on how to cover elections, nor does it have the capacity to cover the length and breadth of our country because of the recent retrenchments at the Public Broadcaster. The SABC is now moving away from its public broadcaster’s mandate and the society must rise to defend the institution.
Issued by the office of the General Secretary CWU
CWU General Secretary
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