The Media Workers Association of South Africa has lashed out at the SABC for its response to the findings of a PriceWaterhouseCoppers skills audit report presented to parliament this week, calling it “insulting and idiotic”.
At a press conference on Thursday, acting chief operations officer of the beleaguered public broadcaster, Hlaudi Motsoeneng – himself under scrutiny over not having a matric qualification – said people with university degrees were a “drain” on the SABC. He said, “Your degrees can’t work for you. You need experience to do the work. When these people come with their degrees, they drain the same people [who are skilled but don’t have degrees]”. He, and human capital services executive Jabulani Mabaso said the PWC report was “outdated” and questioned whether the tests conducted met international standards.
MWASA was not convinced. “Whilst there are many skilled individuals within the employ of the SABC, they are victimised, persecuted and prosecuted for their qualifications, demonstrable skills and insistence on the maintenance of professional and ethical standards,” said MWASA general secretary, Tuwani Gumani.
The PriceWaterhouseCoopers report looked at the level of skills across the board, particularly in the upper echelons of the SABC management. It found executives and senior managers, tasked with pulling the SABC out of its financial doldrums and with launching the migration to Digital Terrestrial Television, lacked skills in communication, time management, strategic thinking, broadcast engineering, budgeting, creative writing and scripting, and, crucially, business management.
It said 60% of the SABC’s executive and senior managers do not meet the minimum strategic thinking skills for executives; 56% were unable to demonstrate adequate levels in solving problems and making decisions; 15% demonstrated only marginal competence in strategic thinking; and 35% of the group did not consider the financial information provided to them as a skills test during the audit.
“In our considered opinion the report simply confirms what is and has been known as irrefutable fact inside and outside the SABC across the country and abroad,” said Gumani. He said skilled people were “hounded out of the SABC” by whatever means possible “including the rampant abuse of disciplinary processes, however costly it may be to the SABC and its victims. The saying is, ‘This is leadership at its best…it is in the best interests of the SABC…money is not an issue’…”
MWASA said the SABC, even with its “extensive hoard of highly remunerated human resources consultants”, failed to meet “meet basic human resource management standards, to keep records, to screen candidates for recruitment and placement, to manage payroll, to determine training needs and to provide employee wellness programmes in general. How on earth do people get salaried for months and years when there are no personnel files or records of their employment? The SABC HCS function has totally collapsed and those in charge of this mess must be brought to book immediately”.
MWASA is finalising the Labour court application against the SABC, challenging wage increases.
DA spokeswoman on the SABC, Marian Shinn, the audit “clearly explains why the SABC – which generated R6.6 billion in 2013 – received as disclaimer of opinion, the worst possible rating from the Auditor-General last year, and why it continuously fails to meet its targets laid down by National Treasury as conditions for the loan guarantee needed for its strategic turnaround”.
She said the report also canvassed staff opinions, and found they “do not trust the management team or the Board”. Staff, in general, demonstrates “a negative attitude towards the organisation which could negatively influence the total corporate culture”.
“SABC Group CEO Lulama Mkhobo told the committee that a three-phase strategy was in place to re-align the structure of the corporation using the information from the skills audit and a substantial renewal would be in place,” Shinn said. She called on communications minister Yunus Carrim to take “drastic steps to “arrest the failures at the public broadcaster by considering implementing some form of management rescue, such as judicial management”.
Shinn said the current senior and executive management team could not manage the SABC’s ‘renewal” or the migration to DTT.
Gumani said the “continued failures of the SABC and the lack of demonstrable political will to remedy the dire situation amount to serious public service delivery failure. The prevalent and worsening rate of abuse of public institutions and civic entities is a human rights crisis. South Africans deserve better”.
“We demand that the SABC must be placed under administration of one form or another to salvage it from the inexcusable incompetence demonstrated by those who would treat South Africans as retarded, moronic and idiotic,” he said. “Ideally, the SABC must be transformed into a fully fledged public-owned chapter 9 institution to be freed from direct political and other vested interests.”
Mokhobo announced her resignation this week. The move means the top five positions at the SABC are now all headed by ‘acting’ executives.