60% of all public servants on paid leave during lockdown – Leon Schreiber

DA MP says 213 291 officials took fully paid sick leave during this period

While millions suffered under brutal ANC lockdown, nearly 60% of government employees went on paid leave

12 October 2020

At precisely the moment that South Africans needed a capable state more desperately than ever to deliver everything from TERS unemployment payments to SASSA grants and emergency procurement of protective equipment, the ANC government decided to send nearly 60% of all public servants on paid leave. This shocking fact was revealed in response to a parliamentary question posed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu. According to Mchunu’s reply, 648 313 out of the 1 169 580 people employed by national and provincial government departments decided to take time off from work during lockdown level 3 between 1 June and 17 August 2020.

Half of all absentees – 327 836 – went on paid vacation during the most acute economic crisis this country has witnessed in at least a generation. A staggering 213 291 government officials also took fully paid sick leave during this period, equal to 18% of the entire government workforce. Another 72 911 public servants used the lockdown to take special paid leave to catch up on their studies and examinations as the private economy imploded due to the destructive lockdown.

Are South Africans supposed to simply believe the outlandish claim that nearly a quarter of the entire government workforce suddenly became ill or had exams scheduled right when the country needed true public servants more than ever?

If ever there was indisputable evidence that the ANC government’s cadre deployment and patronage politics are rapidly collapsing South Africa’s public service, it is this: while at least 2.2 million people in the productive private sector lost all they had during one of the world’s most brutal lockdowns, the government could not even be bothered to ensure that its fully-paid employees showed up for work.

The callousness of a government robbing South Africans of effective service delivery during an unprecedented economic emergency caused by the policies of that same government, simply beggars belief.

The latest revelations by the DA comes after we earlier exposed the fact that the government spent R11 billion on salaries for 84 337 public servants to not work during the lockdown. Adding up the 84 337 officials who, according to Mchunu, “had their workloads reduced significantly” to the 648 313 who went on paid leave during lockdown level 3 means that up to 732 644 – or 63% of the entire national and provincial government workforce – could not be bothered to show up for work in the midst of a national crisis.

While millions of South Africans were forced into a struggle for survival because President Cyril Ramaphosa stood on high and demanded that citizens sacrifice all they had in the name of his disastrous lockdown, the ANC’s incapable state seized the opportunity to go on paid vacation.

But that is not the end of the sheer arrogance and entitlement of Ramaphosa’s government officials. After getting comfortable during their taxpayer-funded lockdown vacations, many of these same government cadres are still not back at work. Instead, many have now embarked on a strike for higher wages, despite the fact that government employees already received salary hikes of 66% after inflation over the past decade. As a result, South Africa now already spends over half of all tax revenue just to pay the salaries of public servants.

In addition to submitting follow-up question on the outrageous absentee rates, the DA looks forward to challenging Minister Mchunu and his fat cat union allies, including NEHAWU, during a parliamentary committee meeting on Friday, 16 October. The meeting was called after NEHAWU submitted a list of demands to Parliament, which calls for the very same public officials who couldn’t even be bothered to show up for work during a national crisis to be granted yet another above-inflation salary increase. Unlike public sector unions and their ANC allies, the DA will use Friday’s committee meeting to demonstrate that we will not sit idly by while a rapidly failing and incapable state seeks to commit fiscal treason against our country.

Issued by Leon Schreiber, DA Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration, 12 October 2020