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SABC to go ahead with retrenchments despite 'unfortunate incident'

On Tuesday, group executive for news and current affairs Phathiswa Magopeni agreed to stop issuing Section 189 retrenchment letters after being confronted by angry staff.

FILE: The SABC headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says it will go ahead with retrenchments as planned, despite the apparent go-slow at the public broadcaster on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, group executive for news and current affairs Phathiswa Magopeni agreed to stop issuing Section 189 retrenchment letters after being confronted by angry staff, saying she would speak to HR about the notices and adding that the work must continue.

"In light of the unfortunate incident which took place at our news division last night, please note that the S189 process is continuing as planned. SABC management and its Board apologise for any confusion that was created yesterday afternoon," the public broadcaster's head of human resources, Mojaki Mosia, said in a three-line email sent to staff on Wednesday morning.

"Management will engage with the news team on the concerns that they have raised."

WATCH: ‘It’s not okay’ - SABC journalist makes tearful appeal against retrenchments

“As a person who accounts to you and as a person who expects you to do your job as per delivering on the public mandate, I will go and negotiate it afterward, but at this point for the work of the public service to continue, I will talk to HR [and] whoever is senior, but from a responsibility to the newsroom, I cannot continue with these letters,” Magopeni said on Tuesday.

The institution is planning to lay off around 400 workers, with 170 positions that they can apply for. Staffers apparently went on a go-slow on Tuesday while addressing their concerns over looming Section 189 notices at the corporation with management.

“It’s headed towards Christmas. You have fired Portia, who the newsroom cannot survive without, Lester.... all those people. How do you do something like that? It’s not okay, ma’am,” said senior broadcast journalist Chriselda Lewis while making an impassioned plea to Magopeni to rethink retrenchments at the SABC.

COO Ian Plaatjes also addressed staff members on Tuesday, pointing fingers at the unions.

“The unions still failed to produce one alternative, or one criteria for us to use. It was a delaying tactic that they used to just drag the process on. And I said it to them, and I’ll say it again – they failed their members in doing that.”

Workers at the SABC's Auckland Park building have been picketing since the start of this week to shed light on the issue. They've also called for management at the corporation to step down.

The SABC has reported a net loss of R511 million for the financial year ending March.

But the corporation said that it was doing well in meeting its content obligations for nation-building and social cohesion.

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