|UPDATE: This factsheet was updated on 26 July 2023.|
South Africans continue to struggle to make ends meet, with a recent survey showing that 70% have not seen their income improve since 2020.
The country’s members of parliament (MPs) are unlikely to feel as much pain, having just benefited from a pay rise.
In this factsheet Africa Check looks at how much South African MPs earn, and what they actually do.
What do MPs earn?
Members of parliament receive annual salary increases based on the recommendations of the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
For the 2022/23 financial year, the commission recommended that all public office bearers receive a 3.8% increase.
But mindful of the “serious economic challenges” facing South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in July 2023 that salaries would be increased by 3%, with effect from 1 April 2022. While this date has passed, the increase is backdated, meaning that it will be paid retrospectively.
What do the numbers now look like?
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).
National Assembly deputy speaker. The next highest-paid MP is the National Assembly’s deputy speaker, who earns R2,098,043 a year.
House chair. The house chairperson is next on the pay scale, earning R1,997,132 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 R1,697,935 a year. The leader of the opposition is also in this group.
Committee chairs. MPs who chair parliamentary committees earn R1,586,847 a year.
Minority party leaders. Leaders of minority parties earn R1,428,218 a year.
Regular MPs. The lowest salary an MP in the national assembly or NCOP earns is R1,207,233 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,” the spokesperson said.
(Note: we contacted Mothapo to check whether these facilities have changed and will update this factsheet when we receive a response.)
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. Members of the NCOP ensure that the national government takes the province’s interests into account, according to parliament’s website.
The work of MPs is divided into parliamentary sessions and constituency periods. In constituency periods MPs must be available to the people they represent and report back on what is happening in parliament and the like.
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 from committees and take final decisions.
- Joint sittings. Members of both the National Assembly and NCOP meet as a 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.
In the 2021/22 financial year, more than 1,217 committee meetings were held. Parliament passed 20 bills. This was less than the number of bills passed the previous year - 24. In 2019/20, 17 bills were passed. MPs asked 4,342 questions of the president and cabinet ministers.
Committees - parliament's ‘engine room’
Committees have been 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.
There are rules on attendance at 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. The PMG is an information service that provides records and documents of all parliamentary committee proceedings.
But Alli added that there are many reasons why MPs might 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 true for smaller parties who sit on multiple committees as either full or alternate members.”
Using PMG records of committee meeting attendance, we identified the MPs with the best track record in 2022. Xola Nqola of the ruling African National Congress topped the list, having attended 111 meetings. Nqola is a member of the NA and currently sits on several committees.