How much politicians get paid vs the average taxpayer in South Africa

 ·8 Aug 2023

In July, South Africa’s millionaire ministers and other public office bearers were granted a 3% salary increase for the 2022/23 financial year – meaning even the average member of parliament will earn four times the average formally-employed South African.

The decision followed recommendations made by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration for public office bearers (POBs) that salaries of all POBs, including ministers, judges, magistrates and traditional leaders, be increased by 3.8% for the 2022/2023 financial year.

“Having considered the commission’s recommendations and serious economic challenges facing the country, the president has decided that the salaries of all public office bearers be increased by 3%,” The presidency said in a statement.

However, labour unions and other groups have argued that even a 3% hike in salaries over R1 million equates to a significant jump – and is coming at a time that the rest of the country is struggling to make ends meet, largely thanks to the crippling of the economy brought about by the same government officials who are now taking a bigger cut.

According to Stats SA, the average formally-employed non-agricultural worker earns R25,304 per month – equating to around R304,000 annually. This puts the average worker in South Africa’s top 12% of income earners – according to the World Inequality database – and SARS’s tax stats for 2022 show that there are around 1.2 million taxpayers who earn between R250,000 and R350,000.

However, the majority (66%) of registered taxpayers earn even less, with 2.7 million earning between R70,000 and R150,000 annually, while a significant 7 million make less than R70,000.

In contrast, The Deputy President of South Africa, Paul Mashatile, and the Speaker of the National Assembly now earn R3 million annually. This is almost 10 times that of the average worker in South Africa.

Department Ministers are also wealthier, with the president granting them an increase to R2.58 million a year from R2.4 million before – equating to roughly 8 times the average worker.

The leader of the main opposition – currently John Steenhuisen of the DA – will see his salary bumped up to R1.7 million, while all other minority leaders – such as the EFF’s Julius Malema – will see their salaries hiked to R1.43 million, this works out to six and five times the average South African.

Ordinary members of parliament now earn R1.2 million a year. For these politicians, their earnings equate to around 4 times the average worker in South Africa.

While the salary of President Ramaphosa has not been gazetted yet, the budget for the presidency in 2023/24 through to 2025/26 estimated that the president’s salary will increase from R4.2 million (unchanged from 2022/23) to R4.6 million over the period.

Source: The Outlier
Position Annual salaryAverage earner X
Deputy President and SpeakerR3 million10x
MinisterR2.58 million8x
Opposition leaderR1.7 million6x
Party leaderR1.43 million5x
Minister of parliament R1.2 million4x

If these salaries are not already out of touch with the rest of the country, these millionaire public servants also enjoy an entire spread of tax-free benefits and perks, all paid for by the South African taxpayer.

This includes over R3 billion worth of private VIP security, free electricity, water, transport and air travel, and multiple state-owned houses worth millions (including their maintenance and property taxes).

Despite this, during the initial salary increase proposals, some POBs called for a 7% increase due to heightened inflation, while others called for as much as 20% and pointed to the decrease in their effective pay in recent years.

Although the presidency noted that in light of the adverse economic conditions, they have decided on a 3% increase, the National Treasury said salary recommendations are tone-deaf in a country battling high poverty levels, forcing President Ramaphosa into a debt balancing act.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said the fiscus could only afford a 1.5% increase and pleaded with the commission to re-assess the prevailing adverse economic conditions and the extent to which the general population faces despair, especially the survival of the population on government social assistance schemes and containing the wage bill to distribute funding to extreme priority programmes.

Read: New finance laws look to stop government corruption in South Africa

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