The mountain of debt is revealed in Parliament’s written reply from Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane to DA MP Phumzile van Damme.
Mokonyane said an astonishing R25,6bn was owed in unpaid fees as viewers chose not to pay their licence fees.
The public broadcaster wrote off more than R4.5bn of unpaid debts on over a million “invalid” accounts in the 2016/17 financial year.
As of April last year, there were just over 9 million licence holders, 2.6 million of whom had paid in full and just over half a million were paying instalments.
Van Damme said the debt was a direct result of mismanagement of the SABC, adding that mense had lost confidence in the public broadcaster and that many had stopped paying in protest.
“Advertisers also withdrew their business by not wanting to advertise with an SABC in turmoil. One of the biggest tasks of the new board is to look at new sources of revenue and start moving away from licence fees,” she said.
In its annual report for the 2016/17 financial year released in September, the SABC posted a net loss after tax of R977 million.
The organisation said it “experienced financial constraints owing to revenue streams deteriorating at a rate of 6% higher than cost reduction”.
SABC spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, said he could not comment immediately on the large sums owed to the organisation.
He said the SABC gets roughly 80% of its revenue from advertisers, 17% from licence fees and 3% from government grants.