A firm of attorneys, Barry Aaron and Associates, has instituted a civil action against the public broadcaster SABC for failure to pay R450,000. The lack of action on the part of the SABC to pay the Johannesburg-based firm tends to confirm the dire financial situation that the Corporation is said to be in.
A month ago the Sunday Independent reported that the SABC had a deficit of R500m and more recently the Mail & Guardian reported that the deficit was in fact R700m.
The civil action which is before the Johannesburg High Court will force the SABC to go to court to stop a liquidation order against it. Lawyer Barry Aaron said that the SABC owed him money for services the firm rendered in a legal battle between the SABC and the National Lottery Board over the Winikhaya television competition, which the board wanted axed.
According to a report in The Times, SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago, the deficit figure of R700m was exaggerated and that the public broadcaster would hold a news briefing to clarify the matter.
An investigation by auditors Deloitte on behalf of the department of communications has revealed that in-fighting between the SABC board and its executive is partly to blame for the situation in which the corporation finds itself.
Aaron’s application to liquidate the SABC is due to be heard by the Johannesburg High Court on Thursday 5 March. In the meanwhile Kganyago has said that they have prioritized Aaron’s payment for this week.
The trade union BEMAWU (Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union) has made allegation of financial mismanagement by the broadcaster. COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) has also sent a circular email titled “COSATU shocked at SABC deficit reports” in which it cites examples of the various allegations made by the broadcast union.
“We have been informed the SABC has not paid most of its creditors and soon the SABC will be liquidated,” said Hannes du Buisson, of BEMAWU.
“Our concern is that there appears to be no financial discipline in the SABC and, if we continue in this way, there will be job losses.
“We are at a point where we can’t trust the board with the finances of the SABC.”
The broadcaster has blamed its financial woes on the global economic meltdown, but this has been disputed by the union.
“We are not saying this is not a contributor but we are saying it is definitely not the main contributor,” Du Buisson told The Times.