'We will pay'-- SABC

The SABC undertook to make good millions of rands of debts owed to companies and individual members of the television production industry at a five-hour crisis meeting on Thursday.

Alarm bells rang last month when the media put the SABC’s losses at almost R800-million. Television producers became concerned that the funding crisis would affect their sector and some came forward with unpaid claims amounting to millions.

The Mail & Guardian has learned that television production representatives called a meeting on March 26 at the Atlas post-production facility in Milpark. At this, an emergency coalition was established, consisting of the Independent Producer’s Organisation, the South African Screen Federation and the Producer’s Alliance. Industry sources said it became clear at the meeting that the SABC had defaulted on a host of payments and, in many instances, had entangled claimants in unmanageable bureaucratic red tape.

A media release distributed on the day of the meeting noted that claimants included some of South Africa’s most popular shows, among them Isidingo, Zola 7, Generations and Home Affairs. It named 25 programmes owed money by the SABC, the sector’s primary client. The release also noted that the top executives and board would receive a letter of intent requesting “assurances that current financial obligations to independent service providers of the SABC will be honoured”.

The coalition was joined in its quest by studios and facility providers, some of which are also understood to be owed money by the broadcaster.

The debt comprises what coalition representatives say is “old debt and current missed payments.”

At this week’s meeting, attended by acting CEO SABC’s Gabs Mampone, content hub chief Yvonne Kgame, head of content enterprises Mvuzo Mbebe and other senior executives, the coalition received the assurance that the SABC would honour its obligations .

Coalition spokesperson and MD of The Bomb Shelter production facility, Desireé Markgraaff, said the SABC had clearly stated that it could and would meet its payment obligations.

It had also mandated SABC official Kamcilla Naidoo to head an operations task team to work with the coalition.

“What’s important is that we don’t want to overrate the amount,” Markgraaff said. “We need to interrogate the extent of the debts and to establish what the real debts are.” The industry was aware of impending change at the SABC and hoped to assert “institutional memory”, Markgraaf said. The coalition will begin drawing up a comprehensive list of who is owed money.

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

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