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South African Lawmaker Unhappy with Zuma's Pay Increase

FILE - South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is pictured during his visit to the Lodewyk P. Spies Old Age Home in Eersterust, Pretoria, Dec. 15, 2015.
FILE - South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is pictured during his visit to the Lodewyk P. Spies Old Age Home in Eersterust, Pretoria, Dec. 15, 2015.

A cross-section of South Africans are not happy with the announcement of an increase in pay for President Jacob Zuma, which is set to begin next month, according to Jordan Lewis, a member of parliament from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

Zuma’s raise will see him taking home $188,000 a year. The Independent Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers recommended in November a 5 percent salary increase. All other civil servants would also receive the same 5 percent salary increase for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

But some opposition and civil society groups say President Zuma doesn’t deserve the increase, due to what they contend is the poor prevailing economic conditions.

Moves against pay increase

The DA introduced two amendments in parliament to oppose the increase for the president, but failed when members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) defeated the effort. Thus the motion for the pay increase became final following the process in the lawmaking body.

Parliament member Lewis says the opposition DA party has officially petitioned Zuma to reject the pay increase.

“This is a president who has faced very serious corruption charges, who has used hundreds of millions of rand of taxpayers’ money to build his own private house,” said Lewis.

“What we have done though is that we have written formally to President Zuma to ask him to do the right thing and not to accept the salary increase. Because the economy is not growing, the economy is in a very tough position besides the imminent downgrade of our national credit rating and many people are unemployed, and there is really a huge cash crunch in the government finances… But I am not optimistic that he would do the right thing.”

Publicity stunt?

Supporters of the ANC say Zuma deserves a salary increase since it was proposed by an independent body, adding that it is the normal pay increase that all civil servants get. They accused the DA of hypocrisy, saying their opposition to the increase is just a mere publicity stunt to gain political points on an issue which shouldn’t have been controversial or political.

But Lewis disagreed. He says the DA’s opposition to the increase is because the president and his party have been unable to boost the economy to create jobs for the country’s youth despite repeated promises to do so.

“The economy is not growing… we face a recession and a credit rating downgrade and in those circumstances even if other civil servants, teachers and nurses get an increase, it doesn’t mean that the president deserves one,” said Lewis.

The DA, Lewis says, will not be deterred in its determination to push for a vote of no confidence vote against Zuma. This, despite Zuma’s decision to pay some of the public funds used to upgrade his private house in Nkandla.

Lewis says the DA is waiting for a favorable decision from the Constitutional Court before deciding the party’s next action.

“Once we have a Constitutional Court judgment on that, then we can move another motion of impeachment in parliament. And then it would be very difficult to argue against that motion because there is a court judgment to back it up,” said Lewis.