The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has applied for yet another government bailout amid fears that it may be unable to pay staff and service providers due to its grievous financial failings.
It’s been an arduous year for the public broadcaster, one marred by an exodus of board members, industrial action, brazen assassination attempts and building fires. Still, the greatest pitfall along the broadcaster’s perilous path rests in its inability to flip a profit – even after receiving a multibillion-rand bailout in 2018.
The broadcaster has admitted that every month this year has been a fine balancing act; pitting staff and municipal services at opposite ends of the scale. Unfortunately for the broadcaster, mounting debts – owed to service providers and municipalities – have thrown operations into a tailspin, with the sustainability of the SABC coming under intense scrutiny.
How much money does the SABC owe?
SABC Chief Financial Officer, Yolande van Biljon, confirmed that an application for a R3.2 billion government bailout had been submitted. Van Biljon explained that the broadcaster’s total debt rests under the R2 billion mark, saying:
“In terms of debt, there is over a billion that is owed. If you add accruals, you come close to R1.8 billion altogether that is due and payable.”
The CFO further added that, should the funding support application be approved, it would effectively rid the broadcaster of debt and ensure the sustainability of day-to-day operations.
Tito Mboweni to the rescue?
Telecommunications Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, confirmed that the application had been received by her department. While no official confirmation on the approval or refusal of the application has been made public, Ndabeni-Abrahams said:
“It is in our best interest to ensure that SABC survives and thrives in everything that they do. That is why we committed that we will be giving SABC money.”
The final decision regarding the hefty bailout does not, however, rest with Ndabeni-Abrahams. Instead, the National Treasury has the final say. Overseen by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni – who has been particularly scathing on failing parastatals and their continuous calls for bailouts – the Treasury is believed to still be in deliberation on the fate of the SABC.