Cash-strapped SABC to get interim relief in 10 days

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has announced that the SABC, which has been buckling under financial strain, will over the next 10 days receive a portion of the interim relief it has been waiting for.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said this when she tabled the department’s budget vote speech in Parliament on Wednesday.

The announcement comes after the public broadcaster -- which has told the previous Parliament of its increasingly dire liquidity issues -- has been waiting for National Treasury to approve its request of a loan guarantee amounting to R3.2 billion to ease its financial pressures.

“…Government is actively looking at strengthening the South African Broadcasting Corporation. As we reported in the Portfolio Committee last week, we continue to engage with National Treasury on a lasting financial solution for the public broadcaster.

“To this end, working with National Treasury, we will in the next 10 days, provide a portion of the interim relief and the remaining balance within the next 45 days,” she said.

For months, the SABC has been struggling to get the government guarantee due to the fact that the Minister and National Treasury were not satisfied with the turnaround strategy that the SABC’s top executives initially presented.

Debating on the department’s budget vote on Wednesday, Ndabeni-Abrahams said the interim relief is subject to the SABC meeting with all the set conditions and requirements.

“In this regard, we will work with the Minister of Finance towards an institutional mechanism to support the turnaround effort, and this includes the appointment of the CRO [chief restructuring officer].”

New infrastructure entity to manage infrastructure, connectivity roll-out

After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a reconfigured Department of Communications - which arose from a merger between the Department of Communications and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services – Ndabeni-Abrahams said on Wednesday that State-owned entities (SOEs) under the department are also being reconfigured in line with the new mandate.

“Through the reconfiguration of some of our SOEs, we will establish a new infrastructure company that will be responsible for the rollout of infrastructure and connectivity.

“As part of the creation of this company, we will ensure that all State infrastructure initiatives are harmonised and coordinated,” the Minister said.

The department will further reconfigure its entities to create a streamlined regulator that will respond to the emerging needs of the digital society. 

“As we ready South Africa to take its leading position in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will also position NEMISA [National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa] to be a digital skills institute that will train government employees and members of the public,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

Digital Development Fund Bill 

As part of ensuring the development of the sector, the department will also soon present the Digital Development Fund Bill to Parliament. The Bill is mainly aimed at establishing a fund to support innovation.

“In order to drive digital transformation in government, there is a need to establish the State IT Company. This will entail the repurposing of the current State Information Technology Agency to drive innovation, transformation, localisation, cyber-security, e-government and IT service management.

“We will further repurpose the South African Post Office to take advantage of the thriving e-commerce and financial services environments, with the latter through the Post Bank,” the Minister said. –