Both sides of the story needed in Parliament regarding SABC retrenchments

Please find attached soundbite by DA Shadow Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Phumzile Van Damme MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is disappointed by the ANC in Parliament’s apparent refusal to invite South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) staff to participate in discussions about retrenchments at the public broadcaster.

The Communications and Digital Technologies Committee is due to meet over two days to discuss amongst other issues, the retrenchments process at the SABC. The meetings scheduled for 21 and 22 July 2020 do not include a slot for SABC staff to address the committee.

The DA had requested that the public broadcaster’s staff be invited to provide their perspective regarding the retrenchments process and that two days be set aside to hear from both management and staff. It appears our request has been rejected without explanation. Hearing both sides of the story would have allowed for Parliament to have a full picture of the process.

The DA will write to the Chairperson of the committee, Boyce Maneli requesting his explanation and again requesting that the staff be invited.

Ordinarily in a situation such as this the Committee would have arranged an oversight visit to the SABC’s headquarters to hear staff grievances. Lockdown does not mean that rigorous oversight can fall by the wayside, it means Parliament must be creative. A virtual meeting with representatives of SABC staff would have been apt.

It is common cause that employee costs at the SABC are high, a historical situation as a result of years of mismanagement. The SABC informed Parliament last month that a R700 million reduction in employee costs would be needed for it to break even. It is tragic that during a global pandemic, in the middle of winter SABC staff are having to deal with the possibility of losing their jobs.  It is not mere “numbers,” that are being cut but the livelihoods of living, breathing and feeling human beings. It is important that this handled with sensitivity, and all staff grievances thoroughly ventilated.

Also not helpful is politicking about the retrenchments. The ANC reportedly held a meeting with the SABC demanding that retrenchments be halted because it did not want to be “embarrassed” ahead of the 2021 local government election. This is not fair to either the SABC’s management or its staff.

We trust that the ANC in Parliament will consider our request favourably. It is not the Parliament of “top executives,” but “of the people.” Engagement with all South Africans regardless their station in life is required in order for Parliament to be truly representative of all views in our country.

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