From the editor
at finweek we often write about unemployment. We write about the country’s unemployment levels and how devastating it is for the economy, and for its citizens, when 6.2m people are sitting at home – unable to find jobs. When specific sectors experience job losses, or specific companies announce planned retrenchments, we write about it. About the impact it will have on those communities, and how it will trickle through to other elements of life. We write about what it means for that specific sector as a whole, and how it will impact other sectors.
But news is always slightly harder to swallow when it hits close to home. As it did for me as a journalist when, at the end of October, the SABC announced that, “should retrenchments be necessary”, it expects to retrench 981 employees. That is a very specific number. So specific that the cynical would say a list with 981 names on it already exists. But let’s not be cynical. The SABC also expected that 1 200 freelancers (out of 2 400) would be affected.
Everybody in the media industry (and probably also most people outside of it) would be very aware of the fact that this industry has been experiencing tough times for at least a decade. Newsrooms in the country that have not gone through the feared “Section 189” process over the last ten years, could probably be counted on one hand.
Don’t get me wrong: As a South African, I have been equally frustrated by the disastrous effects of years of mismanagement at the public broadcaster. And, of course, the dire financial situation at the SABC has to be addressed.
But what I find even more frustrating is that 2 181 employees now find themselves in a position of very real job uncertainty. Should the retrenchments become a reality, they will be joining the hundreds of journalists and other media professionals who have already been pushed out of the industry through countless rounds of retrenchments in recent years.
Very soon, I fear, there will be very few of us left to write about the devastating impact of unemployment, about top-level corruption at state-owned enterprises, about state capture, about opportunities lost. ■