Outcry over R350 million set aside to pay non-returning councillors exit gratuity
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DURBAN - THE government has been heavily criticised over the decision to give a R350 million payout to outgoing councillors.
The Department of Co-operative Governance told all heads of provincial departments responsible for local government, the SA Local Government Association chief executive Xolile George and municipal managers of the country’s 257 municipalities that the non-returning councillors would be paid from November 15.
According to Cogta director-general Avril Williamson, the National Treasury has already appropriated the funds for the payment of non-returning councillors and it has already been transferred to the department for further processing.
“The main purpose of the once-off gratuity is to assist non-returning councillors to adjust to circumstances as they no longer find themselves in office, and to assist them to meet already-enteredinto financial commitments,” Williamson said in a circular, dated October 6.
Documents released during former Finance minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech in February this year revealed that non-returning municipal councillors would be allocated R350m. Of the R350m that has been set aside, each of the councillors will receive a gratuity equivalent to three months’ salary.
Non-returning councillors were also paid the one-off gratuity after the 2011 and 2016 municipal polls, and the bill – in both instances – ran into millions of rand, following recommendations by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
Wits University academic Professor Pundy Pillay questioned the wisdom of the move, noting how many people were suffering after losing jobs owing to the effects of Covid-19.
“This is unbelievable, it is an equivalent of looking at the poor people and slapping them, and then praising the elite. Councillors are reasonably paid public servants and they know that when they are sworn in, it is for a fiveyear term,” said the academic.
He noted how the economy was performing poorly and how it was important for the government to be considerate to the poor. “The ANC is dispensing patronage to its members knowing that many people are likely to vote for it because it provides social grants and poor people accept grants not out of their liking but because they have no choice,” Pillay added.
Political analyst Makhosini Mgitywa said government should have been more circumspect before arriving at the decision, labelling the move a total disregard for poor people. “Many businesses did not get an advance warning that Covid19 would come, and so they collapsed and are unlikely to operate again. Councillors knew from 2016 that their term ends in 2021, and should have therefore started saving,” said Mgitywa.
He added that the local government had not performed exceptionally in the provision of services, underlined by service delivery protests in municipalities across the country.
The one-off gratuity will be based on the last basic salary earned, excluding travel and housing allowances, municipal contributions to a pension fund, and a medical aid scheme.
Sitting, non-pensionable, cellphone and mobile data bundles allowances, as well as out-of-pocket expenses that were due to councillors, must be excluded and not be part of the basic salary, when calculating the one-off gratuity.