Public office-bearers – including President Jacob Zuma and members of his cabinet, MPs and MPLs, mayors, judges, councillors, magistrates and traditional leaders – should get a salary increase of 5.5 percent.
That’s the recommendation for this year from the Independent Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
It’s an increase that would just about keep pace with the rate of inflation that’s being forecast for the end of next year – but must first be approved by Zuma.
If he gives it the green light, Zuma’s own salary would rise from R2.485 million to R2.622m.
In the past, Zuma has reduced the increase recommended by the commission, trimming it from 7 percent to 5 percent in 2010, and from 8 percent to 7 percent in 2009. But he let last year’s 5 percent recommended hike stand.
Any increases would be backdated to April 1, the start of the government’s new financial year, commission chairman Judge Legoabe Seriti said on Wednesday.
Factors considered by the commission included the consumer price index, inflation forecasts, private sector salary increases and the state of the economy.
Judge Seriti said while there had been a “positive” response from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and Richard Baloyi, who was then the public service and administration minister, this could not be said for most of the beneficiaries of the proposed increase.
“Public office-bearers generally are not happy with our recommendations,” Judge Seriti said.
Some had taken issue with their increases being determined without their making any input – but the commission was bound by the law it operated under, he said.
Magistrates in particular were not happy. Judge Seriti said he expected a possible further legal challenge from the Magistrate’s Commission, which has two cases relating to earlier salary determinations pending in the Pretoria High Court.
Gordhan has indicated that the National Treasury has allowed for a salary increase of about 5.5 percent and has called for restraint in wage demands, infuriating public sector unions, which are engaged in pay talks with the government.
In the past three years, the government’s salary bill has ballooned to nearly 40 percent of non-interest expenditure, raising questions about sustainability.
Judge Seriti emphasised the independence of the commission.
He said Gordhan had differed with the commission over its recommendations in the past. While the finance minister’s “view does play a role, he does not dictate to us”.
The judge also gave notice that the commission – made up of eight part-time commissioners and a small secretariat – wanted its scope extended. This was so that it could take into account perks and benefits and so-called “tools of trade” – such as allowances for vehicles, cars, air tickets and cellphones – in arriving at its determinations.
Judge Seriti expressed concern about whether councillors’ salaries – which would rise to just over R400 000 a year if the 5.5 percent increase was applied – were sufficient, given that they bore “the brunt” of communities’ ire over delivery failures.
Sometimes their properties were set alight and they had no insurance to cover this, Judge Seriti said.
He said the commission had told Zuma of its recommendation “about a month ago” and briefed Parliament’s presiding officers on Wednesday morning.
On the question of whether public office-bearers were worth the salaries they were earning, the judge politely declined to comment.