SABC needs R3.2bn government backing to avoid shutdown

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The South African government is considering a R3.2bn guarantee for the country’s cash-strapped national broadcaster to help it raise money from lenders, according to the Sunday Times.

The broadcaster is saddled with large debts to the municipality, signal distributors and Pay TV business Multichoice, the newspaper reported, citing the chairman of SABC Bongumusa Makhathini.

"We have also not maintained any of our infrastructure and a communications blackout is imminent," Makhathini was quoted as saying. The board is in the process of a "cleanup" including a number of probes by the country’s Special Investigative Unit and an internal audit, he said.

The SABC is one of a number of state-owned companies in dire need of financing, with power utility Eskom straining in a debt pile of over R400bn, and South African Airways also needing to repay debts. The National Treasury is being pressured to provide guarantees and bailouts to these businesses.

The crises have come to a head following nine years of alleged looting and mismanagement of government businesses under President Jacob Zuma. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.

The SABC’s chief auditing executive, Thami Zikode, recently survived an alleged assassination attempt that Makhatini linked to the cleanup at the broadcaster, where 180 people have been implicated in wrongdoings.

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