SABC will have money for salaries by the end of March, says minister

Salaries for employees of the SABC will be paid at the end of March, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has said.

The minister was addressing the portfolio committee on communications on Tuesday about the public broadcaster's turnaround strategy.

During the briefing, the committee heard that the SABC faces factual insolvency by the end of March if nothing is done, which led MPs to inquire what this meant for the payment of staff salaries.

Payroll comes first

Chief Financial Officer Yolande van Biljon told the committee that the payroll was prioritised above other expenses.

"We prioritise payroll at the cost of every other service provided," she explained.

This includes content suppliers, investment in marketing, capital expenditure and infrastructure, among other things.

"We do everything possible to protect payroll," she said.

In February, the SABC's income levels had been at their lowest for the financial year, but payrolls were covered, as well as critical service providers, she added.

"This process will continue into March. That is how we will manage around 'day zero'," she said.

Day zero

"My opinion is [that] day zero could happen any day. It depends on one major creditor deciding not to support us," Van Biljon warned.

For this reason, relationships with creditors are critical, she added.

Van Biljon said that for now, salaries would be paid by the end of March, but if anything went wrong in the next two weeks, that would place payment at risk.

'Immediate intervention'

Later during the briefing, Ndabeni-Abrahams put aside fears that day zero would come before month end, and impact the SABC's ability to pay staff.

The minister said a request was made to Treasury for funding for the SABC. This was not necessarily for salaries, but the SABC could use it to pay salaries, she said.

"We can't say the button will be pressed tomorrow," she said, but added that Treasury had guaranteed an "immediate intervention" by the end of the month.

She said the CEO would be able to pay salaries freely with Treasury's help.

"It is not nice for people to be working every day, waking up and not knowing if they will have money," she told the committee.

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