The perks, which would be backdated to 1 July 2017, were gazetted by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Des Van Rooyen. File picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Johannesburg - The South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) has slammed as a "blatant abuse of resources" a proposal by the South African Local Government Association (Salga) for vastly improved perks for mayors and councillors and called for it to be rescinded.

The Star newspaper reported on Thursday that a circular released by Salga last week showed that councillors, speakers and mayors would be getting a R3 400 cell phone allowance plus a further R300 data allowance per month, better housing benefits and bodyguards. 

The perks, which would be backdated to 1 July 2017, were gazetted by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Des Van Rooyen.

Samwu's general secretary, Simon Mathe, said in a statement that these allowances were shocking, particularly given the fact that unlimited cellphone contracts which are inclusive of both data and unlimited calls cost considerably less than R2 000. 

Mathe said that this left them to conclude that these benefits were intended to increase councillors salaries because they never returned calls from community members.

"Municipal workers are left to subsidise the employer by using their own cellphones when performing their duties. These are people who are responsible for ensuring that South Africans receive services yet they are not provided with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so they can safely perform their duties," Mathe said. 

"The most shocking revelation of this gazette is that mayors, councillors and speakers and their deputies will automatically qualify to have bodyguards without any threat assessment being done. This is a blatant abuse of resources which could have otherwise be redirected towards service delivery and the better remuneration of municipal workers. This provision will also be open to abuse by Councils as it does not set the maximum number of bodyguards to be assigned, taking into consideration the experiences of Mogalakwena Local Municipality wherein 20 bodyguards were assigned to one individual."

The circular also showed that mayors will be enjoying free accommodation at the expense of rate payers whereas councillors will be receiving over R6 500 in housing allowance. 

Councillors would be paid a further R1 024 per day for every sitting of District Municipal Councils in addition to their monthly salaries. 

Mathe said that this sitting allowance defied logic and would further create an impression that municipalities are like company boards where individuals get paid to attend board meetings. 

"We therefore view these perks as a waste of resources and therefore urge councils which have the interest of communities at heart not to implement them. In fact, this gazette should be rescinded by the very authority which gazetted it," Mathe said.

"As we prepare for the second round of negotiations, we are will remind Salga that these perks have been an indication to municipal workers that the time to plead poverty is over. By virtues of extending these benefits to councillors, municipal workers have made the conclusion that the money is in deed there to cater for the demands which they have put forward."

Samwu and Salga are set to meet at the next round of negotiations at the end of January. Samwu would demand a 15 percent salary increase and wants a new minimum wage from July 2018 of R10 000 a month.

African News Agency/ANA