|UPDATE: This factsheet was updated on 15 August 2022.|
In this factsheet Africa Check looks at how much South Africa's members of parliament earn and what they actually do.
What do MPs earn?
Members of parliament (MPs) get annual salary increases based on recommendations by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
For the 2021/22 financial year, the commission recommended that all public office bearers receive a 3% increase.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in June 2022 that the recommendation had been accepted and that salary increases would be backdated to April 2021.
National Assembly speaker and National Council of Provinces chairs. The highest-paid MPs are the speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
House chair. The house chairperson is next on the pay scale, earning R1,938,963 a year.
Senior MPs. After the house chair comes a group of senior MPs – the chief whip of the majority party, the chief whip of the NCOP, and the parliamentary council president and deputy president – who earn R1,648,481 a year. The leader of the opposition is also in this group.
Committee chairs. MPs who chair parliamentary committees earn R1,540,628 a year.
What benefits do MPs receive?
South Africa’s MPs also receive “facilities”, parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo previously told Africa Check. These include:
- 88 single journeys a year (by air, train, bus or car)
- Daily commuting
- Travel to and from airports
- Parking at airports
- Travel for their dependants
- Tools of trade, including a cellphone, tablet and laptop
- Equipment and furniture for their offices
- Personal accident insurance
- Accommodation in parliamentary villages (three complexes in Cape Town that house MPs when parliament is in session)
- Transport from the villages to parliament
The facilities are provided to “enable members to perform their duties as elected public representatives”, Mothapo said. But the details of what’s included in these facilities are not publicly available. “They are published in a handbook distributed to members of the national assembly and permanent delegates of the NCOP.”
How do MPs earn their salaries?
The job of MPs is, in short, to make laws, enable public involvement by “providing a national forum for public consideration of issues”, and oversee the work of the executive, such as cabinet ministers.
Ministers are accountable, collectively and individually, to parliament. They have to “provide parliament with full and regular reports concerning matters under their control”, according to the constitution.
An MP can be either a member of the National Assembly or NCOP. The NCOP's members make sure the national government takes the province’s interests into account, according to parliament’s website.
MPs’ work is divided into parliamentary sessions and constituency periods. In constituency periods MPs must be available to the people they represent, reporting back on what is happening in parliament and the like.
An Africa Check analysis of the 2021 parliamentary programme, the latest calendar year for which data is available, reveals that 51.5% of the year’s working days were allocated to constituency duties.
When they are in parliament MPs attend:
- Plenary groups. All the members of a house, either the National Assembly or the NCOP, meet in one group. They debate recommendations made by committees and take final decisions.
- Joint sittings. Members of both the National Assembly and NCOP meet in one group for proceedings such as the president’s State of the Nation Address and the finance minister’s budget presentation.
- Committee meetings. There are over 40 different committees in the National Assembly and 15 in the NCOP.
Committees - parliament's ‘engine room’
The committees are described as the “engine room” of parliament because they are where much of the lawmaking and oversight work is done. The committees report regularly to the house, where their recommendations are debated and final decisions taken.
The different types of committees include:
- Portfolio committees. One for each government department, made up of members of the National Assembly.
- Select committees. These oversee the work of government departments, but are made up of NCOP permanent members. Each committee covers more than one national department.
- Internal committees. These deal with matters affecting the running of parliament.
- Ad hoc committees. These are appointed when a specific task must be done.
- Joint committees. These are appointed by both the National Assembly and NCOP.
Rules are in place for the attendance of committee meetings. These “provide minimum standards for attendance of members in the business or activities of parliament”. Some of the rules are that:
- All political parties must keep attendance records for their members and submit them to the speaker for publication.
- An MP who is a full member of a committee but absent, without party approval, from three or more consecutive meetings may be fined R1,000 for every day absent.
- The committee secretary must submit a report to the speaker every three months on all members who have been absent from three or more consecutive meetings without approval.
“Attendance at meetings is part of an MP's job and should not be taken lightly,” Rashaad Alli, executive director of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG), previously told Africa Check. PMG is an information service that provides records and documents on all parliamentary committee proceedings.
But Alli added that there were many reasons why MPs could be absent from committee meetings. “They can be ill, busy with party work, studying, attending workshops/conferences, travelling, media work and meeting clashes. This last reason is particularly applicable for smaller parties who sit on multiple committees either as full or alternate members.”
Using PMG records of committee meeting attendance, we identified the MPs with the best track record in 2021. Dennis Ryder from the Democratic Alliance, the country’s official opposition, topped the list, having attended 86 meetings. Ryder is a member of the NCOP and currently serves on several committees.
Elsabe Ntlangwini from the Economic Freedom Fighters, the country’s second largest opposition party topped the list of MPs who attended the least committee meetings. Ntlangwini is a member of the NA and currently serves on two committees.