South Africa: The fat paycheck that caused national uproar

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South Africa is in a season of industrial action and workers have been incensed by revelations of their ruler, President Jacob Zuma’s paycheck.

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Cosatu the country’s largest labor movement, this week told striking workers from all sectors that Zuma’s salary runs into millions of South Africa rand amid government claims that there is no money for increments.

Vavi was quoted saying by various media, “I asked the President a while ago what he is earning (…) If my memory serves me right he is earning more than R2.2 million,” he said.

“He has blood like we have blood. He has a big family like we do. He has children to feed like we do. Our needs are the same. We want money,” Vavi is quoted saying.

On Monday, civil servants staged one day protests and they threatened a prolonged strike they said would bring the government to a halt unless a deal is reached by Thursday evening. But, the Zuma administration won’t budge as it insists the 7.5 percent wage rise offer “cannot be increased”.

The unions last week rejected government’s revised wage offer of a 7 percent increase and a R630 housing allowance, as well as a 1,5%
fixed-pay progression. Workers are demanding an 8,6% wage increase and a R1 000 housing allowance, backdated to April 1.

Public service and administration spokesperson Dumisani Nkwamba is on
Thursday quoted saying “It is our hope as government that we would not want to see a full-blown national strike. Our approach as government is that we should find a way to prevent that”.

But Vavi insists that they “are asking for 8.6% only. We are asking for a mere
R1000 a month for a housing allowance. This is peanuts comrades.” And according to him, the minimum wage of a police officer is R7 000 a month.

“Correctional services workers, those who keep the criminals, who are
a menace to our communities behind bars, earn only R7 050. A prosecutor who makes sure criminals are found guilty and pay for their deeds earns only R9 723 a month. A magistrate earns R15 732 for reading all those law books and summarizing all those cases.”

South Africa’s parliament last year voted to increase Zuma’s annual salary package to R2.254 million, of which 60 percent would be his basic salary.

But that same year, reports say Zuma trimmed the annual increase for
MPs, ministers, judges and traditional leaders and accepted an
increase for himself that was R21 000 below official recommendations.

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