How much you need to earn to be in the richest 1% in South Africa

 ·10 Jun 2024

South Africa’s ordinary MPs are not quite top one-percenters when it comes to their salary—but they are getting closer and are by far some of the highest-paid people in the country.

Ministers and deputies, however, are definitely among the elite, taking home fat salaries on top of their tax-free perks and benefits.

Much like trying to pin down what makes someone a middle-class earner in South Africa, the question of who makes it into the top 1% depends on who you ask and what data you look at.

Going on monthly earnings, previous data compiled by Knight Frank showed that a 1% earner in South Africa is anyone grossing over $109,000 a year, or just over R2 million. This equates to R160,000 a month.

This aligns closely with updated data from the World Inequality Database (WID), which puts the entry-level to the top 1% of earners in South Africa at around R151,600 per month (R1.8 million a year).

This means that many of South Africa’s top politicians are now the elite 1% of the country’s population, making up some of the highest-earning individuals in a country gripped by the worst income inequality in the world.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week gazetted a 2.5% salary increase for MPs, ministers and deputies.

South Africa’s cabinet ministers have long been some of the highest-paid people in the country and gain a multitude of tax-free perks and benefits footed by taxpayers on top of their R2.7 million salaries.

According to Corne Mulder, FF Plus MP and chief whip—whose salary has been hiked to R1.4 million—not all politicians are “millionaires”.

Speaking to 702, he said that a R1.3 million salary sounds like a lot, but after deductions like medical aid, pensions and taxes, “not a huge amount” is left. He said most MPs are left with “just over R50,000” after deductions, considering the latest rate hikes.

He also pointed out that ordinary MPs don’t get state housing and other perks—however, this is something cabinet ministers and their deputies certainly do enjoy.

“Politicians are seen as corrupt, rogues and crooks. There are bad people involved in politics, but they are taitning the role of all politicians,” he said.

Millionaire politicians

While Mulder argues that MPs are not left with much, this does not remove the fact that South Africa’s politicians are top earners.

Ordinary members of parliament will now be earning over R1.26 million a year, which according to the database puts them in the top 3% of earners in the entire country.

What they take home after deductions would still put them in the top 6% of earners if it were a gross salary.

According to the latest data from Stats SA, the average formal worker in South Africa earns R26,894 per month. This is almost within the top 10% of earnings in the country (11%).

South Africa’s median salary of R5,417 is also shockingly within the top 36% of earnings. The halfway point, according to the WID, is R3,200 per month.

Even if ordinary MPs are not one-percenters, they are very close—and the higher politicians move in the ranks of parliament, the closer they get to that top 1% position.

The tables below outline which politicians are going to be one-percenters this year.

Deputy president, ministers and deputy ministers

Position (Pay level 1, effective from 1 April)2024/25Per MonthTop %
Deputy PresidentR3 164 654R263 7211%
MinisterR2 689 937R244 1611%
Deputy MinisterR2 215 220R184 6021%

Members of the National Assembly and NCOP

Position (Pay level 1-2, effective from 1 April)2024/25Per MonthTop %
Speaker: NAR3 164 654R263 7211%
Chair: NCOPR3 164 654R263 7211%
Deputy Speaker: NAR2 215 220R184 6021%
Deputy Speaker: NCOPR2 215 220R184 6021%
House ChairR2 108 472R175 7061%
Chief Whip: Majority PartyR1 792 595R149 3832%
Chief Whip: NCOPR1 792 595R149 3832%
Parliamentary Counsellor: PresidentR1 792 595R149 3832%
Parliamentary Counsellor: Deputy PresidentR1 792 595R149 3832%
Leader of OppositionR1 792 595R149 3832%
Committee ChairR1 675 314R139 6102%
Deputy Chief Whip: Majority PartyR1 507 841R125 6543%
Chief Whip: Largest Minority PartyR1 507 841R125 6543%
Leader of Minority PartyR1 507 841R125 6543%
WhipR1 399 201R116 6003%
Member of National AssemblyR1 274 536R106 2113%
Permanent Delegate of the NCOPR1 274 536R106 2113%

Premiers, MECs and Members of Provincial Legislatures

Position (Pay level 1-3, effective from 1 April)2024/25Per MonthTop %
PremierR2 531 760R210 9801%
Member of Executive CouncilR2 215 220R184 6021%
SpeakerR2 215 220R184 6021%
Deputy SpeakerR1 792 595R149 3832%
Chief Whip: Majority PartyR1 675 314R139 6102%
Committee ChairR1 507 844R125 6542%
Leader of OppositionR1 507 844R125 6542%
Deputy Committee ChairR1 418 612R118 2183%
Deputy Chief Whip: Majority PartyR1 418 612R118 2183%
Chief Whip: Largest Minority PartyR1 418 612R118 2183%
Leader of Minority PartyR1 418 612R118 2183%
Parliamentary Counsellor to King/QueenR1 274 536R106 2113%
WhipR1 274 536R106 2113%
Member of Provincial LegislatureR1 233 560R102 7973%

Read: Ramaphosa approves salary hikes for ministers, MPs and premiers

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