Sitting in the pound seats

 ·22 Aug 2012

Running a country is like running a business, but heads of state in general can’t expect to earn as much as those who run corporate firms.

Earlier this week, it was estimated that President Jacob Zuma could cost SA taxpayers more than R500 million over five years. This is according to analysis based on the Ministerial Handbook.

The Democratic Alliance’s director of political analysis and development, Gareth van Onselen, who wrote a blog in his own personal capacity (published on used the Ministerial Handbook as a guide to calculate the figure.

In September last year (2011), the National Assembly approved a 5% boost to South African President, Jacob Zuma’s annual salary, taking the country’s head from earning R2.36 million per annum, to R2.48 million.

When comparing Zuma’s salary to the highest paid heads of state in the world, the South African chief sits well within the top ten.

However, while R2 million-plus is well above the means a majority of South Africans would ever see pass through their bank accounts, the president’s salary pales in comparison to those of SA’s highest-paid telecom and tech CEOs.

The top execs at South Africa’s biggest mobile operators earn well into the millions of rands – as a basic salary – and CEOs, Pieter Uys (Vodacom) and Sifiso Dabengwa (MTN Group) earn over three times as much as President Zuma.

In fact, with the exception of Singaporean prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong – who earns a whopping R23.76 million a year – SA’s top CEOs earn more than most of the world’s heads of state.

Note: Comparisons were done on basic salaries, and do not include bonuses and incentives or take into account presidential costs to state.

Highest paid heads of state in the world (basic salary)

# Name Position Salary*
1 Lee Hsien Loong Prime Minister Of Singapore R23,762,422
2 Donald Tsang Chief Executive of Hong Kong R4,268,898
3 Raila Odinga Prime Minister of Kenya R3,560,437
4 Barack Obama President Of United States R3,328,266
5 Nicolas Sarkozy President of France R2,874,149
6 Jacob Zuma President Of South Africa R2,485,839**
7 Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada R2,466,091
8 Mary McAleese President of Ireland R2,394,627
9 Julia Gillard Prime Minister of Australia R2,385,358
10 Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany R2,359,204

*Converted 20 August 2012: 1 USD = 8.31854 ZAR
**After 5% salary increase for 2012

Telecom CEO salaries in South Africa (basic salary)

# Name Position Salary
1 Pieter Uys Vodacom CEO R7,083,750
2 Sifiso Dabengwa MTN Group CEO R7,133,000
3 Mark Levy Blue Label Telecom CEO R5,965,000
4 Brett Levy Blue Label Telecom CEO R5,958,000
5 Craig Venter Altech CEO R4,812,000
6 Reuben September Telkom CEO* R2,583,881

*Reuben September was Telkom’s CEO until 7 July 2010. He was Telkom’s CEO for 3 months before departing, and still earned his salary for the time he spent at the company over that financial year.

Related articles

Executives paid too much: research

Salary shootout: Vodacom vs. MTN

Top-earning telecom CEOs in SA

How does your salary compare with international standards?

SA ICT salaries for 2012 revealed

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter