Staff at Sentech are bracing themselves for further job cuts and
increasingly intolerable working conditions as the state-owned entity
is crippled by a lack of cash, writes Lesley Stones in Business Day.

The signal distributor has become a political hot potato, ordered to roll out a national high-speed network to provide voice and data services for all, yet denied the funds to do so.

Now it is bleeding talent with 100 resignations last year, 10 more resignations since the new year, and six key executives handed letters of retrenchment. The next redundancies are likely to include members of the Communications Workers’ Union, as an agreement not to dismiss any union members expires this month. Letters have gone out warning that CEO Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane will unveil more restructuring plans soon.

Disaffected staff sick of watching Sentech implode are threatened by memos warning that “under no circumstances” can they talk to the media. A memo last week said: “Disciplinary action will be taken against any employee bringing into disrepute the name of this company.”

One manager who resigned recently says the six executives were victimised. “It’s not about restructuring, it’s about getting rid of people who don’t conform.”

Several sources say the moves are racist, as the heads of project management, sales and marketing, finance and administration and other divisions were neither incompetent nor redundant.

Nobody will talk on the record, with axed executives trying to negotiate severance packages. “Sentech is offering only the minimum required by the Labour Relations Act, which is one week’s pay for one year’s service. All are trying to get Sentech to be reasonable and give three weeks per year, as most are sole breadwinners,” said an insider.

The chaos stems partly from a lack of cash, but is largely a result of mismanagement, says a former high-ranking insider. “It isn’t just noninvestment, there is also nonperformance, and that goes right to the top.”

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.