What do mayors and councillors earn?

On November 1, South Africans will head to the polls to vote in the local government elections. Voters will be voting to elect councils for all districts, metropolitan and local municipalities in each of the country’s nine provinces. There are eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and 205 local municipalities. 

So what exactly do each of the councillors and mayors in these municipalities earn? The Daily Vox team decided to take a closer look at how salaries are calculated. 

Firstly, how is the local government structured?

All municipalities in South Africa are run by a council. The mayor is in charge of the council. The position of mayor is an elected position. This is why the people in this role change depending on the results of the elections. The municipal administration is made up of the municipal manager and department heads. They are not elected and thus have better job security. The municipal administration works together with the mayor and council. It is the role of the administration to ensure the policies are implemented within communities.

Who decides the salaries for local government officials?

The salaries for local government councillors and mayors is decided by the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (COGTA). This department is responsible for determining the upper limits of the salaries, allowances and benefits of the different members of municipal councils. The Cogta minister gets to decide these limits due to the power vested by the Remuneration of Public Office-bearers Act, 1998 (Act No. 20 of 1998). 

Who are the government officials concerned? 

Cogta determines the limits of salaries for local government councillors and mayors. Also included in these salaries are different municipal council members. These include full-time deputy mayors, speakers, members of mayoral committees and chairpersons of committees. 

How are the salaries calculated

There is a points system according to the act which is used to determine the salary. The points take into consideration the total municipal income, the total population and grade of the municipal council. Councillors (full-time and part-time) also receive several other allowances as part of the total remuneration package. These include motor vehicle allowances, out of pocket expenses, cell phone allowance, risk cover, medical aid scheme and tools of the trade. Tools of the trade can be offered by the municipal council to the councillor. This includes office furniture, technical equipment and bodyguards. Provisions are also made for councillors and mayors with disabilities. 

When a councillor’s residential property is damaged or destroyed, municipalities must provide alternative accommodation for 30 days after such an incident. It could be damaged either as a result of a riot, civil unrest, strike or public disorder.

The points system 

The municipalities are categorised from grades one to six.The grade is determined by two factors: its total municipal income and its total population. Points are allocated for municipal income. Thereafter points are given based on the municipality’s boundaries. Lastly, the points are assigned by adding its income and population points. In a research report from the Dullah Omar Institute in 2006, a comment was made on accountability. 

“Of some concern is the impact of the national government on municipal governance. Where a councillor’s salary comes from the residents’ pockets, councillors are truly accountable to that community. However, where councillors are increasingly being paid by the national government, the direct accountability link to the community may be weakened. Local communities should therefore ensure that the national paymaster does not become a local taskmaster.”

Quote from Dullah Omar Institute
What are the actual numbers?

According to the Payscale tool, the average salary for a city councillor is R290 000. In 2020, town and city councillors got a 4% pay rise. This 4% rise meant that metro mayors are paid R1?404?260 a year. The hike applied to all councillors, full-time and part-time, and included increases to daily allowances for attending council meetings. All other allowances provided for councillors including data, cellphones and transport, were also increased.

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