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S.Africa’s public broadcaster set to shed 600 jobs

South Africa’s venerable public broadcaster on Thursday announced it was preparing to lay off 600 employees, nearly a fifth of its staff, in a bid to return to financial viability.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which has survived thanks to repeated state bailouts, said it had issued a notice of “possible redundancies,” a necessary administrative step before cutting the workforce.

The move is part of “a strategic renewal initiative aimed at transforming the corporation into a financially sustainable, self-sufficient and fit-for-purpose public broadcaster,” it said in a statement.

The redundancy plan “will impact approximately 600 employees,” it said.

The company employs more than 3,000 full-time staff.

The 77-year-old broadcaster previously drew up a plan to retrench 981 full-time employees and 1,200 freelancers, but this was abandoned last year.

SABC has been buffetted by corruption and maladministration scandals, which worsened during ex-president Jacob Zuma’s tenure in office.

The national auditor-general’s office last year said the broadcaster was commercially insolvent.

The latest plan is to “ensure the continued viability of the corporation”, SABC said.

Headquartered in Johannesburg, the corporation has three free-to-air TV channels and 18 radio stations broadcasting in all the country’s 11 official languages.

More than one in four of South Africans are out of work, a rate widely expected to balloon due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.