Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Top structure should go — SABC union

PUBLISHED: 2009/12/01 06:34:22 AM in the BUSINESS DAY

THE government should look at the SABC’s “heavy and expensive top structure” before it considered staff retrenchments, the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) told the Department of Communications yesterday.

The union, in a letter appealing for more time to review the controversial Public Service Broadcasting Bill, also asked director- general Mamodupi Mohlala to ensure the broadcaster’s new CEO not be an inexperienced political appointee.

Bemawu, which belongs to the Save Our SABC Coalition, was one of the bodies that submitted information to the auditor-general that became part of the damning report on the broadcaster, showing widespread corruption and mismanagement.

Bemawu president Hannes du Buisson wrote: “We need a qualified and competent CEO with a proven track record of successful business operations, not another (incompetent) political appointment.” The SABC needed “a lean and competent top structure which should be effective and understand the business”.

“The SABC cannot afford to pay top management exorbitant packages when they cannot do their jobs properly and they hire consultants at a cost of millions of rand to do their job. If we cannot find competent people, only then should the SABC appoint consultants. We cannot afford to do both,” he said.

Du Buisson asked that all stakeholders, including the Treasury, meet to discuss the new funding model proposed in the bill and the restructuring alluded to in the bill. “As part of this exercise we need to relook at the SABC’s very heavy and expensive top structure and the exorbitant salaries executives are paid,” he said.

The union again asked why there was such haste in pushing the bill through.

“The interim board has done an excellent job in beginning to stabilise the SABC and we have faith that the new permanent board will continue the process.

“The drafting of the new legislation should be a separate and parallel process.”

The bill proposes, among other things, a 1% personal income tax to be levied to assist broadcasting. The period for public comment closes next Monday.

The department confirmed yesterday that Mohlala had received the letter. Spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso said any consideration of allowing more time for consultation would take place only after the Monday deadline.

“It is our wish to have as many inputs as possible from South Africans. The process itself opens up the draft bill to thorough public scrutiny, starting from the stakeholder workshops we convened in August this year to the current process ,” Mohlala said.

On the appeal to the government to first look at senior management before starting retrenchment of SABC staff , Mohlala said staffing issues fell under the ambit of the b oard of d irectors and the executive management of the public broadcaster.