PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s salary came under scrutiny during public servants’ strike outside Parliament yesterday, when Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi reeled off government officials’ pay packages and compared them with “ordinary” employees.
“If my memory serves me right he (Zuma) is earning more than R2.2-million (annually),” said Vavi.
“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 geld (money). ‘Ons soek geld’ (we want money).”
He then told protesters that the minimum wage for a police officer was R7000 a month, correctional services workers R7050, prosecutors R9723 and magistrates R15732 “for reading all those law books and summarising all those cases”.
In comparison to directors-general earning R100000 a month and ministers R143000 a month, he regarded the 8.6% which civil servants were seeking as “peanuts”.
“In the private sector we know the statistics are much worse, but we elected the ANC to the public sector ... and they are making it absolutely stinking. We are saying to you ... you have a conscience, remunerate properly.”
Cosatu and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC), which represents independent unions in the public service, have jointly turned down the government’s 7% pay offer.
Negotiators met again in Centurion, Pretoria, last night but ILC spokesman Chris Klopper said he was not holding his breath for an improved offer.
Meanwhile, Public Service Minister Richard Baloyi asked state employees to return to work today, saying the memorandum he received containing their pay demands would receive government’s “full attention”.
“As government, we are applying our minds to this matter and will respond to the demands as a matter of urgency,” he said yesterday.
Baloyi received a memorandum of demands from protesting workers at the Union Buildings, which reiterated the call for an 8.6% salary increase backdated to April, a R1000 housing allowance and the filling of vacant positions in the public service.
According to Klopper, about one- third of their representatives fell into the essential services category and were not allowed to strike.
Cosatu negotiator Mugwena Maluleka said he hoped the government would change its mind after seeing the “might of the workers”.
The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said an impending nationwide strike could be on the cards.
Grace Joyce said that as a teacher she felt sorry that children would suffer, but, as a parent, she was also worried because she could not make ends meet with her meagre salary.
Another man, who did not want to be named, marched away from the south lawns of the Union Buildings saying: “If they won’t listen, we are going to un-govern this government.”
“Down with the fat cats,” another man shouted.
A trip to some public institutions showed schools and Home Affairs offices appeared to be the most adversely affected.
Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said, however, that the impact had been minimal with only 11% of staff members heeding the call to strike and only four of their 380 offices nationwide closing. They were Cradock, Mthatha, Piet Retief and Nelspruit.
At schools, pupils were sent home when teachers failed to arrive.
“My children said they’re sitting there doing nothing,” said one parent in Johannesburg, who wished to remain anonymous.
The Health Department said there were varying levels of disruption throughout the provinces and it may refer patients to less affected facilities within a province, or across provincial boundaries, where necessary.
After a meeting at the Durban City Hall, ahead of that province’s protest march tomorrow, there were threats to close hospitals and clinics.
“We will close wards and clinics. We are called essential services, but the employer does not treat us as essential,” said Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA deputy provincial chairman Sibonelo Cele. – Sapa