Friday, August 1, 2014

South Africans Must Have A Say In The SABC

 The 4th August 2014 marks the sad anniversary of the exile of MWASA (Media Workers Association of South Africa) from the SABC. On this fateful day, the SABC decided to terminate with immediate effect the recognition of MWASA. This was done under the pretext of enforcing an obsolete MWASA/SABC Collective Agreement clause which required 20% and 25% membership for organisational and bargaining rights respectively.

Until April the 18th and the 20th of 2011 MWASA was the only union to have a valid recognition agreement with the SABC. It has now been established that the SABC deliberately prevented MWASA from formally amending the threshold clause but favoured the other two agreeable unions with offers to sign brand new but identical collective agreements.

MWASA was declared an undesirable "risk" following a successful application to the CCMA which sought to force the SABC to respect a legally enforceable framework of engagement agreement designed to regulate the corporation's turnaround strategy which was a priority condition for the R1.47bn Government Loan Guarantee.

Four Ministers of Communications, three Boards and 5 incumbents in the office of the CEO since August 2011, MWASA is still technically excluded from active participation in constructive workplace dialogue platforms. 

The SABC continues to flounder and to digress from the trajectory towards stability. The concern that MWASA has persistently raised, that of overt political interference remains firmly in place despite denials of either complicity or active encouragement of the proliferation of corruption, of pathological collapse of governance, of chronic and endemic organisational dysfunctionality.

The relationship between MWASA and the SABC continues to be regulated through the CCMA and the courts because the agenda at senior levels of the public broadcaster seems to be driven by personal ambitions and careerism at the expense of the public mandate, the development of staff and meaningful participation by people of South Africa. 

The reported bonuses amounting to R42m are meant to bribe the staff of the corporation into 'getting on with the programme' whilst the core issues such as addressing the widening income gaps, the appalling training and development programmes, development of a performance culture, improvement in the content offerings on air, gender equality, etc, remain neglected. 

Women in the SABC in particular, continue to be treated appallingly even as we celebrate womens' month annually as we do from today. The SABC remains male-dominated and the abuse of women, in all forms continues with abandon. Fear of occupational detriment and of stigma continue to stifle the voices of abused women. We do expect violent denials in this regard. 

The disappointing lack of progress in stabilising the SABC casts an unfortunate reflection on the progress South Africa has made since the advent of democracy. 

The SABC has not been a good story to tell. South Africans are voting with their remote-controls and are shunning the SABC because the Corporation is a 70% negative news story and it continues unabated detailing running commentary and blow-by-blow accounts of its self-destructive shenanigans. 

Whereas the SABC had all the makings and the potential to provide leadership in enhancing the role of communications in the entrenchment, appreciation and enhancement of democracy, it continues to undermine its role in facilitating genuine national, continental and global debate and dialogue around critical questions and important values including accountability, responsibility and service to humanity.   

MWASA calls on the Minister of Communications, the SABC board, SABC Executive and organised labour representing workers to convene an urgent summit to set the basis for formal dialogue on the state of the SABC and to set-off genuine public engagement on the future role of the SABC as a public asset. 

It cannot be that the SABC behaves as if it is under siege from its public. It cannot be that the SABC operates as if it is a privately-owned company. It is a public company and must serve the public as a whole and not as defined by a handful of individuals or powerful organisations.

The SABC, like South Africa, belongs to all who live in the country and indeed all South Africans must have a say and have their say heard, heeded and respected in the determination of the role and performance of the SABC in ensuring a better life for all.

Tuwani Gumani
General Secretary
Contact:, (+27) (0) 82 743 3867

All correspondences to be directed to the Office of the General Secretary