Cosatu. Picture: REUTERS
Cosatu. Picture: REUTERS

As the country struggles with a sky-high public wage bill, public office bearers, including the president, could receive a 4% salary increase.

The Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers has recommended the 4% for ministers, members of the judiciary, mayors and traditional leaders, among others.  

The government has consistently complained of an unsustainable public-sector wage bill that amounts to more than R587bn, with the finance minister recently saying the Treasury does not have the money to foot the R30bn wage increases for this year.

The remuneration commission is mandated to make annual recommendations regarding the salaries, allowances and benefits of public office bearers, which can only be implemented with the approval of the president.

If the recommendation gets the green light, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s salary will increase from R2,989,845 to R3,109,439 a  year, while chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s pay will go up to R2,938,488 from R2,825,470.

The increases are for the 2018-2019 financial year and, if approved, would have to be back paid to April.

According to the gazetted memo containing the commission’s report, factors such as the effects inflation would have on the lifestyles of the office bearers, the public wage bill, and several inflation projections and reports were taken into account.

“After considering the relevant legislation and factors mentioned, including inputs from all stakeholders, the commission is recommending 4% annual adjustments to the remuneration of all categories of public office bearers,” it read.

The salaries of ministers would increase to R2,497,698.

On Tuesday union federation Cosatu called on Ramaphosa to reject the recommendations. Describing the 4% as “outlandish”, the federation said it was inconceivable “for any properly adjusted people” to effect such hikes in the face of mass retrenchments and unemployment, the deteriorating socio-economic status of the majority of South Africans and increasing poverty rates.

“Cosatu is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to not only ignore this ridiculous recommendation but to throw it into the nearest dustbin, where it belongs," the federation said in a statement. 

“The reality is that our government is less and less able to meet its obligations through taxation, it is clueless about how to reduce its obligations after resorting to dangerous levels of inflationary borrowing over the past decade. Political office bearers across the board do not deserve any salary increase.” 

The commission said the recommendation was made in consultation with former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize,  and the justice and correctional services minister Michael Masutha.