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Zille and her Cabinet say no thanks to pay hike

Andisiwe Makinana

Premier Helen Zille and her provincial Cabinet have declined salary increases, saying they were sticking to the commission's recommendations.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. (AFP)

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and her entire provincial Cabinet have declined the latest salary increases offered to public representatives in the national and provincial governments.

President Jacob Zuma, who also did not take a pay hike in the 2013/14 period, ignored recommendations from the independent commission for the remuneration of public office bearers not to increase salaries of politicians earning R1-million and above.

The independent commission for the remuneration of public office bearers recommended staggered salary increases according to income – from 7% for those earning less than R500 000 a year to nothing for those earning R1-million year.

Instead, Zuma decided on 5% across the board.

Zille told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday that she had taken a personal decision not to accept the pay hike, and that she would be advising her provincial Cabinet to do the same.

"I will advise the Cabinet to stick to the recommendation of the commission for the remuneration of public office bearers.  But I will not have the power to force anyone to comply. Only the president can do that," said Zille.

Unanimous decision
On Wednesday, she revealed that the provincial Cabinet had unanimously taken a decision to abide by the recommendation of the commission. 

Zille said she was merely complying with a recommendation of the commission, which said that people at a certain salary level should not take increases this year. 

"I agree with this recommendation, at a time of austerity, but in addition I think we should respect these institutions, which are established for a reason."

She said the commission's recommendations had been carefully considered. "These recommendations are the remit of the above-mentioned commission. They have a mandate. They investigate the relevant issues, and make a recommendation to the president.

"He can accept it or reject it. My understanding [subject to correction] is that he has not accepted it for government as a whole.

"I think that we should, because otherwise, what is the point of the commission?" said Zille.

President Jacob Zuma signed a proclamation on January 3 that effectively increased the salaries of public office bearers by 5%, backdated to April last year.

The proclamation means premiers, Cabinet Ministers, members of Parliament, and members of provincial legislatures, including members of the provincial executive councils (MECs) received a salary increase.

They all already earn above R1-million.

Premiers will now earn R1.982-million, up from R1.888-million. MECs' salaries have increased to R1.734-million, up from R1.652-million and the provincial legislature speaker now receives R1.734-million, up from R1.652-million. 

The chief whip of the majority party receives R1.239-million, up from R1.180-million, while chairs of committees, leaders of the opposition and committee chairpersons' salaries increase from R1.062-million to R1.115-million.

Austerity package
Last year, the government implemented an austerity package for executives, including a ban on state credit cards, restrictions on travel and accommodation perks, and limits on amounts spent in buying cars for official use.

In December, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said after a consideration of the recommendations of the commission, Zuma decided the remuneration of public office bearers for the 2013/14 financial year will increase by 5%.

Maharaj said Zuma took these decisions after consideration of the following factors:

  • The recommendations of the commission;
  • The affordability of the different levels of remuneration;
  • The present social and economic context; and
  • The level of inflation and its impact on the buying power of the incomes of public office bearers.

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