Public Servants’ lockdown pay: My response to Leon Schreiber – Senzo Mchunu

Minister says govt has sought to balance need to save lives and to save livelihoods


The Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Minister Senzo Mchunu, was interviewed this morning by Mr Xoli Mngambi on The South African Morning show on eNCA.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has alleged that R11 billion had been paid in salaries to public servants during the lockdown for "not doing any work", This allegation is contained in a statement issued by Dr Leon Schreiber, MP of the DA on 9 August 2020 and is based on a response to a Parliamentary question from the DA, Mr Mngambi asked the Minister for his response to the allegation.

Due to network connection challenges which distorted the audio, the Minister was unable to provide his response in full. This media statement is thus the Minister's response.

In his response, the Minister started off by stating the fact that upon the declaration of the national state of disaster, directions were issued in the public service for departments to determine appropriate working arrangements; these working arrangements would be based on the unique circumstances and service delivery requirements of each department throughout the Country. Most public servants (such as those in the health sector, police and the defence force) were performing essential services consistently during levels 4 and 5 of the national lockdown and continue to do so tirelessly. This includes those on rear lines supporting frontliners, the rest of public servants have been working remotely from home but work has nonetheless been performed by public servants. Nowhere in the Minister's reply to the Parliamentary question was there mention of public servants being paid for "not doing any work".

There is no classification of "nonessential public servants". Public servants have played and continue to play a vital part in ensuring an effective response to the pandemic — whether at the frontline (such as healthcare or security services) or in the other categories as mentioned above, The machinery of government consists of various components in order to ensure confirmed government services to the citizens, The slashing of public servant salaries would not only affect the delivery of services to the public but would also be contrary to the provisions in section 34 of the Public Service Act, 1994,

In its statement, the DA further made mention of cadres being paid their salaries, public service does not have this category, it is the DA's rhetoric in MP Schreiber's head only. Public servants also include the Judiciary as well as members of the National Executive and Parliament who have also continued to receive their salaries in full. Parliament had gone into a 3 week recess following the declaration of the national state of disaster, and were fully paid including MP Schreiber (DA). The DA is making all these claims with a mouth full of salaries.

The pandemic is a world-wide phenomenon and has resulted in most countries imposing lockdowns which has had an impact on the country's economic activities. Some measures that government could afford were undertaken to assist the private sector through various economic relief initiatives, UIF claims by workers whose jobs have been affected by COYID-19 are a phenomenon throughout the globe and not peculiar to South Africa. The reality we have to face is that public servants both elected and appointed are privileged to enjoy their salaries when other workers have lost their livelihoods, it is not a political gimmick that MP Schreiber indulges in. There is only one public service in South Africa with uniform norms and standards, no Provincial deviations.

What constitutes a national scandal is that Dr Schreiber does not understand anything outside of the DA. Government has sought to balance the need to save lives, to save livelihoods and will continue to do so in a responsible manner.

Statement issued by Senzo Mchunu, Minister for Public Service and Administration, 11 August 2020