President Zuma. File picture: Nic Bothma/EPA

Johannesburg - The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has expressed anger at reports that the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers is recommending a four percent salary increase backdated to April for the highest-paid state officials.

"If the increase is agreed, President [Jacob] Zuma’s salary will rise from from nearly R2.9 million a year, to just under R3 million a year, [Deputy President Cyril] Ramaphosa’s from R2.7 million to R2.8 million. All 35 ministers will get R2.4 million a year, and their deputies R2 million," Saftu said in a statement. 

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise would each earn R2.8 million, while Mmusi Maimane, as leader of the opposition, and ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu were each set to earn R1.5 million and premiers R2.2 million. 

Read: Cabinet salary bonanza despite dire state of economy

"MPs will get a bigger percentage increase of 4.5 percent, which will take their salary to nearly R1.1 million. Mayors' salaries are set to jump by R56,000 to R1.3 million. And judges and kings are also all in line for rises."

Yet this news came in the same week in which the cabinet approved the National Minimum Wage Bill which would "condemn millions of workers to live in poverty on R20 and hour, or R3500 a month; expanded public works program (EPWP) participants learned that they were going to have to survive on R88 a day; and public servants were likely to be offered increases of no more than the rate of inflation which was in real terms no increase at all.

"These items news encapsulate everything that is wrong with the way wealth is distributed in South Africa," Saftu said.

Political leaders who were responsible for the economic crisis - which had led to the highest level of unemployment in 14 years, to more than half the population living below the poverty line, and to the creation of the most unequal society in the world - would continue to live in luxury while the poorest South Africans and "the workers who create the country’s wealth are forced to patriotically tighten their belts and pay the price for this crisis of which they are the victims, not the cause".

"What makes this news even more sickening is the flood of allegations that many of the people who will be receiving these increases have already been receiving far more than their official salaries through their part in the looting of the state coffers through bribery, tender manipulation, mismanagement of state-owned enterprises, and colluding with private business to rob the state of billions of rand. And now the workers and the poor are being presented with the bill for these lost billions," Saftu said.