By Dave Charles
I wish I had taken my short foray into the world of Politics more seriously. I enrolled as a student at Wits University in 1977 after a year of National service. I didn’t have a clue about what I could do to earn a living, so I was advised to do a general Arts degree and to work it out from there. This involved choosing subjects that I might be interested in and, because I wanted to change the world, along with Zulu, English and History, I opted for a course in Political Science.
I must admit that from the outset, I really didn’t understand much of what our lecturer, Alf Stadler, was talking about. At first, I thought he might be speaking a foreign language, and the prescribed reading was way beyond anything I had been prepared for at Boksburg High.
But against all expectations, I passed Political Science1. I would rather have put needles in my eyes, however, than to have continued with it for a further two or three years.
No – instead, I changed course and opted for a career in television production…a real dead end as it turned out once BEE took control of that sector. I should have stuck to politics. When I consider how tough it is to run a business in South Africa, and how hard you have to work to make ends meet compared to the lot of the average minister or government official, I could kick myself.
Before this year’s approved salary increase for state officials, salaries ranged from the Deputy President’s whopping R2 825 470 to the lowest member of the provincial legislature’s sumptuous R1 101 348.
And this excludes their substantial perks. These salaries apply to all members of parliament, irrespective of the political parties they represent, so it isn’t difficult to understand why minority party representatives don’t rock the boat too much apart from making impassioned speeches for the cameras.
Considering that there are 490 seats in the National Assembly this takes the annual cost to you and I to around R600 000 000 in salaries alone. And, of course, they have access to all sorts of opportunities to further feather the nest – not that I am suggesting for one minute that any of them would actually engage in anything untoward…but I digress. I have long tried to determine what these people actually do in exchange for these princely financial packages.
They neither sow nor reap, as far as I can tell, and they don’t appear to create jobs in any way that is meaningful to the growth of our economy. In fact, from what I can determine, their most vigorous endeavour seems to be currying favour with supporters by turning people against each other to secure their positions.
Hey, I could do that easily at half the price! Call me cynical if you will, but I just don’t see how the political elite relate to the people they profess to serve or feel any of the hardships that the rest of the country experiences. None of them lost their jobs during the Covid crisis, they have private security details, generous housing, travel and entertainment allowances, they drive luxury vehicles and enjoy a host of other privileges paid for by you and me.
And now the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers has just gazetted its recommended salary increases in 2022. Among the proposed salaries is an increase for Deputy President David Mabuza, who will pocket R2.91 million if the proposal is confirmed.
The commission also proposes an increase for leaders of the opposition. John Steenhuisen will take home R1.64 million, while EFF leader Julius Malema and other leaders of minority parties will score R1.38 million.
If the economy was flourishing, if we had a stable electricity supply, adequate healthcare, security, and education, if jobs were plentiful and corruption was eliminated, I would consider this money well spent.
As it is, I am considering my options under the Consumer Protection Act - Chapter 2 Part H 54 - Consumer’s rights to demand quality service.
Dear Consumer Protection Act, please could we have a new government – this one’s broken.
**Dave Charles presents the Afternoon Drive 3 - 6pm Monday to Friday on 88FM Radio Life&Style - The Voice of Ballito.