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By Linda Daniels
Angry MPs across the political spectrum have ditched their ideological differences and called an urgent multiparty meeting to discuss a proposed 5,4 percent salary increase, as opposed to the handsome pay hike for the executive.
The brewing revolt in Cape Town follows recommendations by an independent remunerations commission headed by Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
The aim of the commission is to review and restructure the salary packages of members of parliament, the cabinet, members of the judiciary and traditional leaders.
What incensed ordinary MPs is that in his report, Justice Moseneke said a committee of ministers - headed by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel - said parliamentarians were earning enough but recommended a huge increase for ministers and other top executives in all three arms of government.
But MPs are having none of this. Also on the cards is an emergency meeting of the chief whips forum after Inkatha Freedom Party MP Sybil Seaton sought a meeting on the issue.
One MP, who did not want to be named, said: "We don't want this (commission's report) signed by the president until we have a meeting. We must also call those ministers, under Manuel's chairpersonship, who felt we did not warrant increases. We want answers."
What had added fuel to MPs' fury, after the report was released on Friday, was Justice Moseneke's comment on hiking MPs' constituency allowances from R40 000 to R80 000 a year. Justice Moseneke had reportedly said of the increase: "We found an ingenious way of getting MPs off their backsides to do some constituency work."
Seaton said the comment was disrespectful and belittled MPs. She said that while there might be MPs who do very little, the same could be said of some magistrates and judges.
"Yet the commission he chaired has approved huge increases for magistrates, judges and (Moseneke) himself. So how does Justice Moseneke justify their increases? Will those massive salary increases help get the judiciary off their backsides? I don't think so."
MPs transcended political differences in their disapproval of the commission's findings, which awarded President Thabo Mbeki a 57,3 percent increase. Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was recommended to take home R1,7-million and deputy ministers are to receive R1,19-million a year.
Last week, ANC caucus chairperson Vytjie Mentor said she was depressed by the commission's findings, which were made even worse by the fact that MPs had no recourse.
She also said the proposed R643 800 package for MPs would do little to stem the 84 percent turnover rate experienced in parliament.