Editorial | The state must stop meddling in SOEs

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The SABC headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied
The SABC headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied


Spare a thought for the poor souls who have been tasked with rescuing the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that were wrecked during the wasted decade.

They have to contend with having to make tough decisions to get the ailing entities off their knees, as well as interference from political bosses who are afraid to bite the bullet and suffer the consequences of unpopular decisions.

Many of the boards and executive committees that came in after the ouster of the rogue regime of former president Jacob Zuma did so with the intention of doing the country a service and leaving a legacy of having fixed broken organisations.

For most of them, it was never about the fat executive pay cheque – although the remuneration is competitive – or about the board fees and access to business opportunities.

Many have been hamstrung by the inability of the governing ANC to behave like a responsible shareholder and leave the running of the companies to a trusted board that oversees an able executive management team.

In almost every instance – from Eskom and SAA to the SABC – the governing party has positioned itself as a trade union and ideological overseer.

Read: SABC records better performance despite R511m loss

Eskom’s debt has ballooned because government intervened to prevent management from cutting the bloated wage bill, which forms a huge part of the costs.

SAA is grounded because of government’s ideological weddedness to the idea that a national airline must be owned by the state, regardless of the drain on the overburdened fiscus.

It is the ANC – in the form of its secretary-general, the communications minister and other leaders and structures – that has overstepped.

The SABC, which has been in the news this week, is unable to get out of the dwang because the ANC keeps taking the side of the workforce that was bloated and pampered by a demented Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who ran the place like Donald Trump runs the White House.

As journalists, we will always stand by our colleagues and their labour rights.

We recognise their right to fight management to preserve as many jobs as possible. It is the duty of their respective unions to fight this fight.

But it is the ANC – in the form of its secretary-general, the communications minister and other leaders and structures – that has overstepped.

The governing party and government’s first priority should be the health of the public broadcaster.

If we are to fix our SOEs and let them play the developmental role they are supposed to, the ANC must wean itself off the need to control all.

And if the SABC is to become the broadcaster we dreamt of, one that holds its own in this digital era, the governing party must stay in its lane.


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