EDITORIAL: Pay our civil servants what they deserve

Home | EDITORIAL: Pay our civil servants what they deserve

The wealth of South Africa should be distributed more fairly and equally

Aug 18, 2010 11:14 PM | By Editorial 


Thabiso Mokoshane is 39 and heads the languages department at Kensington Secondary in Devland, near Soweto.

He has taught for six years and has a BA degree in education, but earns just R13000 a month. After deductions, and after making his bond repayment, Mokoshane takes home R4000 to a family of three.

President Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane, at 28, is heading for his first billion in shares as a benefactor of the recently announced R9-billion black economic empowerment deal struck with ArcelorMittal South Africa.

Mokoshane, who is a decade older than Duduzane, went on strike yesterday. "I'm drowning in debt, and need this increase and housing allowance,'' he said.

Mokoshane and others like him – nurses, police officers, state prosecutors – will, over the next few days, be portrayed as selfish civil servants, holding the state to ransom as they toyi-toyi for an additional R1.3-billion to meet their demand for an 8.6% pay increase and a R1000 housing allowance.

Public Service Minister Richard Baloyi said yesterday pay increases for public servants are entirely dependent on their affordability to the state.

But what do we expect civil servants like Mokoshane to do with R13000 a month?

Last year's matriculants started out as the Grade 1 class in 1998. Back then, there were 1550790 of them. Last year, when they wrote matric, only 551940 remained. Of these, only 334609 passed. Of those 551940 matric pupils, only 290407 wrote mathematics – 85356 passed with more than 40%.

Each year, we lament the state of education. Recently, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga threw in the towel on Outcomes-Based Education, admitting that it had been a failure.

But while 11828747 children in government schools struggle through 12 grades of education, taught by 386587 teachers who are mainly over-burdened and ill-equipped, Motshekga is not badly off.

At a meeting last week in Cape Town, Cosatu's secretary-general, Zwelinzima Vavi, told a crowd: "A minister, do you know how much they earn? R143000 a month."

At the same meeting, Vavi recounted the following average monthly salary statistics: a police officer earns R7000, a state prosecutor earns R9273 and a correctional services guard R7050.

So how do we fix this? How do we create a society where inequality so starkly illustrated by the coterie of elites will not be cemented for generations to come?

As a newspaper that is part of this society, we'd like to say: pay teachers for what they must do – educating future generations of children to become productive citizens. Restore teachers, nurses and other civil servants to the positions – that of respected and valued professionals – that they used to occupy in our communities.

Today, The Times asks the government to consider paying those civil servants who deserve to be recognised financially as valuable professionals who deliver essential services what they are worth.

To do less is to give credence to the suspicion that lives with many South Africans – across race, class and gender – that the wealth and empowerment of this country have been taken hostage by a few.

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