On 19 September the Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA) staged a picket outside the Johannesburg headquarters of public broadcaster SABC and handed over a memorandum of demands to SABC group CEO Lulama Mokhobo and several other senior executives.
Also present to receive the memorandum were three non-executive SABC board members including Lumko Mtinde.
Said MWASA general secretary Tuwani Gumani: “We were supported by about a hundred of our members at the picket. One of our main grievances is that we feel that the SABC is sidelining MWASA in favour of two other industry unions – the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) and the Creative Workers Union (CWU).
“We handed over our memorandum of demands and the SABC has 14 days to respond. If they don’t we will take much stronger action against them.’
In an email letter sent out on 20 September Gumani wrote: “It is of major concern that the SABC continues to fail to appreciate the core details and nuances of the Right to Freedom of Association where the executive and board of the public institution continue to annex unilateral and ultra-legal control of and regulation of the right of employees to choose a union of their choice.
“In this case there is presented to us as MWASA, as a serious obstacle to the reinstatement of unlawfully and clandestinely terminated organisational rights, that since 31 May 2012, employees who have issued a clear instruction to the SABC to recognise their preference for MWASA membership, may not be allowed to do so until they complete a special resignation-form yet to be designed by the SABC.
“The SABC has no business in who joins what union and how their “administration system’ recognises such freely associating members. That is the “FREE’ in freedom of association and the SABC has no business regulating the exercise of this right!
“Whilst some of the clearly enraged members have instructed MWASA to lodge criminal charges against the SABC in terms of section 34 of the BCEA, we hope that we will not be driven beyond the diplomatic position we have maintained in a bid to allow some sense to prevail even after 13-months of strife and financial ruin. An apt but regrettable reference was made by SABC board member and NUMSA president, Cedric Gina, to the unfortunate Lonmin-Marikana Mine labour relations situation.
“We had equally made similar analogies earlier and regret the perceived consequences of cultivating a comparable disastrous set of conditions at the SABC.
“Beyond this current superficial madness presented by the SABC, I as general secretary of MWASA may well be inadequate to hold-back the flow and tides of discontent and desperation bottled up among abused staff and members.
“It is irresponsible for the SABC to continue to ignore facts that could be independently verified and would set the record straight. It is dangerous to protect an unsustainable arrangement of convenience such as that between the SABC and its favoured unions. The results are self-evident.
The SABC has seen dismal performance in terms of the SIU and Auditor-General’s recommendations; the non-starter “turnaround strategy’ and the failure to progress in terms of skills development as well as employment equity programmes. It is unacceptable that the SABC’s future is compromised simply for the joyride of excluding MWASA from constructive and results-driven social dialogue within the SABC.
“Our immediate and unconditional return to these constructive engagement processes will constitute the first strides towards achieving an SABC that Works!
“The ball is now firmly in the court of the SABC and we pray that sense prevails in less than the 14-calendar days signed for by the parties on 19 September.’