South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) workers affiliated to the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) downed tools across the country on Friday, despite the suspension of the company’s retrenchment process.

The SABC board put the Section 189 process on ice following a meeting last night.

It had already served some workers with letters indicating its intention to terminate their employment by the 31st of December, 2020.

However, CWU and another union at the corporation, Bemawu, believe that the board’s move is a ruse. They say they want the process scrapped altogether and employment termination letters revoked.

The ANC, its youth wing, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and #NotInMyName are among the organisations supporting the workers’ struggle. The strike follows days of lunchtime pickets by the workers.

The governing party’s national spokesperson Pule Mabe has slammed the board’s resolve, saying they can’t take unilateral decisions at the SABC as if it is a private entity. He called on them to upscale workers’ skills instead of showing them the door.

His colleague Dakota Legoete called on the board to shape up or ship out.

The EFF has called for the board to be dissolved.

SABC Group CEO, Madoda Mxakwe, received the workers’ list of demands.

He has promised a response within a week.

On Thursday, amid protests at the SABC’s headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Foreign News Editor Sophie Mokoena informed the crowd that Mxakwe had called for a staff meeting to discuss the job cuts, causing uproar.

That dialogue has since been shelved.

Speaking to VOW FM News, COPE Spokesperson Dennis Bloem condemned the Section 189 process, which comes amid a high unemployment rate in South Africa.

ANC Fezile Dabi Region ward 12 coordinator Thulani Thibana said the job cuts will contribute to the existing high poverty levels in the country.

EFF Head of labour desk in the Joburg region Kgabo Hlonyana said the red barrettes will continue to support the protests till the end.

Rights group, Right2Know, has on the other hand threatened to take the SABC to court should they find that the retrenchment and restructuring process undermines the public’s right to information. 

The organisation has cautioned the SABC board against running the parastatal like a private company, whose bottom line is profits.  

The SABC has consistently emphasised on the need to cut the company’s head count, saying it will help keep it afloat.

However, as public pressure mounts – the jury is still out there on whether the corporation will eventually lay off the 400 it initially intended to.