Treasury mulling over SABC’s request for R3bn guarantee

13 September 2017 - 14:35 By Linda Ensor And Bekezela Phakathi
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Image: Waldo Swiegers. (C) Sunday Times.

Treasury is considering a request by the SABC for a guarantee of R3-billion‚ Parliament's standing committee on finance was told on Wednesday.

This is the first time that the exact amount required by the public broadcaster has been made public.

Granting the guarantee would raise total state guarantees which stand at R474bn‚ up from last year's R470bn.

Government's contingent liabilities in the form of guarantees are of concern to credit ratings agencies‚ particularly because of the precarious state of several state-owned enterprises.

In May‚ the Treasury rejected the SABC’s initial request for a government guarantee amid concern it lacked accountability and a sound financial plan.

The SABC is in deep financial trouble and fears are that it could collapse should it fail to get the guarantee. It has been struggling to meet its obligations‚ including the payment of service providers.

Its huge losses have been attributed partly to axed executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s controversial 90% local content policy‚ which the interim board has since canned.

Parliament heard in June that the SABC was expecting to end the 2016-17 financial year with a net loss of R1.1bn. It recorded a loss of R411m in 2015-16‚ up from R395m the previous year.

Earlier in September‚ the public broadcaster’s deputy interim board chairman‚ Mathatha Tsedu‚ said the organisation urgently required a government guarantee.

"When we got to the SABC the biggest concern of the employees was whether they would get paid. We have stabilised that and it is no longer the case‚" Tsedu said in response to questions from MPs during an interview for a position on the permanent board.

"But it is not going to be possible to transform‚ modernise and digitise the SABC without an injection from external funding … without it [a government guarantee] we would survive‚ but just survive."