SABC to get another bailout to carry out its ‘broader responsibilities’ ahead of 2024 elections

Communications minister Mondli Gungubele said resources will need to be found to make SABC functional.

Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Mondli Gungubele says cash-strapped South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) will once again get a bailout. 

Gungubele said the bailout will ensure the public broadcaster carries out its broader responsibilities, especially covering the upcoming elections in 2024.

The minister was answering questions in Parliament during an oral reply session.

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Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa asked whether government was working towards another bailout for the SABC and if so, how much was it.

SABC needs to be functional

In his response, Gungubele said the SABC would need to be functional, especially when it came to elections coverage. 

“I am not going to say whether there will be a bailout. I will tell you the key issue to us is, whatever happens, the SABC will need to be functional, especially when it comes to the elections. That will have to happen,” he said. 

“How that happens is a matter with regards to how do we play around with the resources at our disposal and what gaps are there and if there are any other areas where we can get resources, but the basic principle is that we are working to ensure the SABC stays afloat to carry out its broader responsibilities.”

The SABC incurred a significant loss of R1.1 billion in the past fiscal year.

Gungubele said the public broadcaster spent the R2.3 billion it received in 2019 and his department was following up on how it spent it. 

Serious red flags

DA MP Natasha Mazzone said SABC’s financial situation continued to deteriorate, leading to severe understaffing and resource shortages. 

“The strain on its employees is palpable, and job security is increasingly uncertain. Just last week, the uncertainty around broadcasting Rugby World Cup matches involving the Springboks by the SABC, was only resolved by the intervention of private sector sponsors.

“It is imperative to emphasise the SABC holds a legislative mandate to disseminate accessible and high-quality information to the South African public, a mission that takes on heightened importance in the lead-up to next year’s election,” she said.

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Mazzone said the role of the public broadcaster during an election can never be underestimated and that suggesting it can’t meet its mandate without a financial injection should raise serious red flags.

2019’s bailout 

The bailout in 2019 was announced by then communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams after it was approved by the National Treasury.

The broadcaster was first given R2.1 billion and the remaining R1.1 billion was transferred once “all conditions were met”. 

The conditions included appointing a new board and for the broadcaster to be transparent about its monthly finances.

“As they requested that we appoint a new board, it was appointed, hence you see the chairperson seated on my right.

“To ensure compliance with the funding conditions, SABC is expected to present its monthly financial status to the department of communications,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said at the time. 

She said the R3.2 billion would not be enough, saying it was short-term funding as the broadcaster required more. 

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