Parliament has strongly defended President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent decision to approve a recommendation to increase Public Office Bearers (POBs) salaries by 3 percent.
The Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers made the recommendation earlier this year. Various groups, including labour federation COSATU, slammed it as “tone deaf” in the face of South Africa’s economic difficulties.
‘Rising costs of living’
However, in a lengthy statement on Wednesday (22 June), Parliament said “nothing could be further from the truth.” It added that POBs, who include MPs, last had salary increases in 2019.
“Because of the prevailing and difficult economic conditions, it was important that the remuneration of the public office bearers be adjusted to enable them to cope with the rising costs of living,” Parliament said.
“The average consumer inflation rate has been on the increase, and for 2021, it was 4.5 percent, which is higher than the averages recorded for 2020 (3.3 percent) and 2019 (4.1 percent) – resulting in the buying power of the disposable income becoming lower.”
It noted that an MP’s salary, which is currently R1,172,071 annually, is “misinterpreted” because it is published as “a total remuneration package (total cost to company) and not cost-plus benefits.”
“For example, if an ordinary MP earns say R1.1 million per annum, that includes the basic salary, a flexible portion, a travel allowance, a political office bearers’ allowance and a contribution to the pension fund,” Parliament explained.
“Other deductions that will be taken from the salary include tax (Pay as You Earn), medical aid, party contributions, village accommodation and others authorised by the individual MP like a bond or car instalment.”
According to Parliament, MPs should be fairly remunerated “consistent with the scale of their responsibilities.” This is because they are responsible for oversight over state institutions that employ hundreds of thousands of South Africans and a national budget of R1.6 trillion.
“Compared with salaries of public service employees, parliamentarians earn at scale equal to junior-level management,” it said.
“A desktop survey suggests that South African public representatives do not earn anywhere higher than those of countries with similar GDP and population, amongst other considerations.”
Besides MPs, other POBs set to get salary increases are the Deputy President, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers, MECs and MPLs.