Five percent payrise for all the president’s men

By Carien Du Plessis 26 August 2011

Ministers, MPs, magistrates, the president, premiers, judges, and traditional leaders have been granted a humble 5% salary increase, almost making those public servants (6.8%) look greedy – but then again, they get paid a bit more. There are even plans link the top dogs’ pay to performance in future, CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.

For those who want to marry a rich public-office bearer, grab the President. With a salary of R2.49 million a year, he’s the highest-paid public representative. But keeping in mind that you might have to share your loot with a few others, why not consider Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe who, as a former president, earns the same salary as Zuma, or Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu and Chief Justice (to be) Mogoeng Mogoeng, both with annual salaries of R2.24 million.

Those who want to marry for love, go for a lowly magistrate (R671,219 per annum) or even better, a senior traditional leader at R170,096 per year. We didn’t count headmen and headwomen in our contest for salaries, as they only qualify for stipends, now with an upper limit of R71,644.

The Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, headed by Judge Willie Seriti, announced the 5% salary increase at a briefing at the Union Buildings on Friday. Last year’s increase was 7% (CPI average was 6%).

These increases are effective from 1 April this year, and the public representatives will be getting their back pay in the next few months once it has been approved by Parliament, the President, the Minister for Co-operative Governance (for traditional leaders) and entered into the Persal public payroll system.

In the past the retrospective increases had only reached public representatives by Christmas, so there’s plenty of time to befriend one before they get these “bonuses”. Dr Mark Basson from the commission, who answered all the difficult questions, said the increase was informed by consumer-price-index trends (the average for the first four months of this year was 4.2%), affordability, national market trends and consultation with stakeholders. “Personally I think government has shown bold leadership with regards to increase restraint. As captains of industry, I think we need to reconsider our pay increase strategies,” he said.

In fact, increases linked to performance could be in the offing for public representatives some time in the future. “We are investigating alternative ways of giving increases that are performance-related. We have done some benchmarking and have gone overseas to look at what we considered best practices,” Basson said. But it’s a “complicated exercise” and the commission isn’t even sure whether it would be looking at individuals or collectives (so if the economy doesn’t grow, economic cluster ministers might have to suffer alone, but it could also be that the cabinet as a collective is punished).

There was some good news for outgoing local councillors who served the full term from 1 March 2006 to 18 May 2011, who will be getting a “once-off gratuity” of three months’ pensionable salary. The commission won’t make a habit of this though – it’s an “interim measure” and it will be “embarking on a long-term project looking at the salaries and benefits of local councillors”, to be conducted within the next year, Judge Seriti said. “One of the complaints we received is that councillors are not insured. During riots if they suffer damages, either personal or physical, they have no insurance cover. If they do get assistance it is because of the goodwill of that particular person, and we thought it is time to come up with a major review of this,” he said.

Headmen and headwomen might have mixed feelings about Friday’s recommendations. After looking into their affairs, the commission recommended that their annual stipends should have a ceiling of R71,644 (estimated cost to fiscus: R517 million, R270 million more than the current cost), for those with the most responsibilities, and they’re not entitled to cars or other benefits. They also cannot “double-dip”, so if they are getting paid as, say, councillors already, they can’t get stipends too. Some provinces had been paying more than this, and steps will be taken to get them into line with these recommendations. It took the commission some time to count all the headmen and headwomen, but they eventually established that there are 7,219 with only 12 in Gauteng and a whopping 3,372 in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mike Schussler from Economists.com told Phillip de Wet earlier that public representatives should try leading by example. “All public servants and public representatives should have inflation minus increases for the next five years, until we get 10% economic growth. Then we can give them a little bit more money. Maybe we give them inflation minus 10% if there is only 1% growth, and they can get increases equal to inflation again when we hit 10% growth,” he said.

Maybe then we’ll see a little bit more productivity in some circles. DM


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  • The Independent Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers will update their website with their latest recommendations soon.


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"Joyfully to the breeze royal Odysseus spread his sail and with his rudder skillfully he steered." ~ Homer