Johannesburg - The country’s almost 20 600 public office bearers could be in line for 3% in salary increase which would cost the fiscus R350 million.
If President Cyril Ramaphosa approves the Independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers’ recommendations, the salary bill for politicians, judicial officers (judges and magistrates), traditional leaders and heads of independent constitutional institutions such as the Auditor-General and the Public Protector could increase to nearly R12 billion a year, up from R11.6bn.
Ramaphosa could become the first president to earn over R3m a year in terms of the commission’s recommendations but his salary must be approved by Parliament.
The proposed salary increases come as government employees are preparing to negotiate their wage hikes following the Constitutional Court acceptance of the state’s justification for not implementing salary increases in 2020, after public sector unions challenged the decision.
The commission, chaired by North West Judge President Monica Leeuw and based in the Presidency, recommended all public office bearers receive a 3% salary increase for the 2020/21 financial year, to be backdated to April last year.
According to the commission, it considered the relevant legislation and other factors when coming up with the figure.
It made the recommendation despite former Finance minister Tito Mboweni warning about the parlous state of the economy which led to reductions of R160bn in the public service wage bill.
”The minister informed the commission that the country’s economy has been severely affected by the Covid-19 health crisis since 2020 causing reductions in wages and working time period, and job losses in other sectors of production.
“The minister emphasised that the economy may take longer to recover and this would result in a shortfall of R175.2bn in tax collections, translating into an increase in debt and debt-service costs,” reads the commission’s explanatory memorandum on the remuneration recommendations.
However, Mboweni also cautioned that retaining salaries of lower end public office bearers at 0% for extended periods of time may not be sustainable, and would have a negative impact on their pensionable emoluments and possibly impact on morale.
In the submission, judges complained that their salaries had diminished due to below inflation or no increases at all in the past few years.
They also warned that the provisions of the Constitution on the terms of office and remuneration of judges including salaries, allowances and benefits of judges may not be reduced.
”The judges further raised the concern that within the past five years, the judges’ salaries has eroded by over 20% … They further submit that an erosion of this nature is unconstitutional by reason of section 176(3) and the separation of powers envisaged in section 165(4) of the Constitution,” the commission explained in the memorandum.
The commission has proposed that judges’ salaries should be considered separately from other public office bearers, and urged Ramaphosa to have due regard to the Constitution when determining their pay.
Judges also want the commission to consider implementing progressive steps aimed at addressing the 20% deficit in their current remuneration and grant them an increase above consumer price inflation (CPI) or not less than 8%.
The commission, according to the judges, should take note that their salaries are being reduced every year.
Magistrates wanted a 5.3% cost of living adjustment to cover the compounding and cumulative shortfall in increases in their remuneration under CPI since 2009.