The forum on Wednesday also called for careful scrutiny from the national broadcaster so that planned retrenchments do not have a negative impact on its services.
“We are particularly concerned about cuts to news and current affairs. These issues must be addressed in the retrenchment plans,” Sanef Chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said.
Appearing before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications, SABC board member Mathatha Tsedu said the public broadcaster would not be able to pay full salaries and that March could be its “day zero if nothing happens”.
Mahlase said the SABC was critical for the output of education, information and entertainment across all official languages.
“Further, the public service broadcaster has the central information and education role to play in elections. In 2019 South Africans will be going to the polls in one of the most hotly contested and important elections post apartheid – we cannot afford to allow the SABC to fail,” she added.
Mahlase said Sanef discussed the pressing issues with SABC executives in a recent meeting.
“Sanef believes the SABC is one of the most important media institutions in our country. The very serious financial problems at the broadcaster must be urgently and courageously addressed.”
NDPP interviews open to the media
Sanef also took the opportunity to weigh in on a court decision granting the media access to interviews for the role of National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP).
The forum said it was happy about the court ruling and that it had supported the High Court application brought by the Right2Know Campaign (R2K), which challenged the decision by the Presidency to conduct the interviews in private.
Sanef said it believed that there was substantial public interest not only in the appointment of the NDPP, but also in the selection process.
“We welcomed the consultative and considered approach that President Cyril Ramaphosa had taken in the appointment of the NDPP, but we were of the opinion that, given the considerable public crisis of confidence surrounding the National Prosecuting Authority and the position of NDPP, the media had a duty, in terms of the Constitution, to report on such proceedings,” Mahlase said.
She said the selection of the new NDPP “would benefit from public scrutiny”.
“We are delighted that the judge ruled in the favour of R2K and that this appointment process is now open. We believe that this will significantly contribute to ensuring confidence in the office of the NDPP is restored.”