National Assembly approves zero salary increases for judges, magistrates and public protector
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Parties sang from the same hymn sheet when they supported the recommendations for the zero salary increase for judges, magistrates and some heads of chapter nine institutions.
On Thursday, the National Assembly debated the proposals when the justice and correctional services portfolio committee tabled its report.
The committee recommended a 0% salary increase for the public protector, deputy public protector, commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission, Constitutional Court judges and other judges with effect from April 2020.
They made their recommendations after President Cyril Ramaphosa received the annual salary recommendations from the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
The commission cited fiscal condition, state wage bill and impact of salary increment on the fiscus and general economic status of the country which has been affected by the Covid-19 for the 0% wage increase.
Parliament said in a statement the recommendation on salary increase for the judges and magistrates needed approval from both Houses to be effective.
“A plenary sitting of the National Council of Provinces is yet to decide on the issue,” spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.
Mothapo also said the approval of the salaries of the public protector, deputy public protector and the commissioners needed only the National Assembly.
Speaking during the debate, DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said the country was facing serious fiscal constraints.
“While ordinary citizens are struggling to survive with unemployment at unprecedented rising levels, now is not the time for those of us fortunate enough to be gainfully employed to demand unrealistic increases at the expense of fellow citizens,” she said.
Her colleague, Werner Horn, extended sympathy to the magistrates.
“We accept that it would be unavoidable for magistrates to escape zero increase faced by all public office-bearers,” Horn said.
Breytenbach also said Ramaphosa correctly determined a zero wage increase for the judges, although the decision was not without controversy as there was a view it flew in the face of the constitutional provision.
“We reluctantly support the determination and the report,” she said.
EFF’s Yoliswa Yako said government employees, heads of chapter nine institutions and judges were paid incredibly higher wages compared to the rest of South Africans.
Yako said they welcomed the zero increase.
The IFP’s Themba Msimang said the grim reality was that they had to consider the salary determination of the commissioners and public protectors against the economic circumstances.
His colleague, Narend Singh, said the zero salary increase should not distract legal people from joining prosecutorial and magisterial divisions.
The ACDP’s Steve Swart also supported the salary determination for the commissioners and public protector, saying it was important to bear in mind the fiscal constraints.
Swart said he reluctantly supported the zero increase for magistrates given the financial situation facing the country.
“We need to remember that magistrates are at the coalface of delivering justice. It is incumbent to extend our gratitude to members of judiciary and magistracy for the work they have done under difficult circumstances,” Swart said, adding that they were mindful of concerns by the judges.
NFP’s Munzoor Shaik Emam said his party supported the salary determination taking into account considerations of South Africa heading to 5 trillion debt and many more people losing jobs.
The ANC also supported the salary determinations along with small parties.