How much do SA municipalities pay their top managers?

Municipal managers are the highest-paid bureaucrats in a municipality. They work to implement the policies and projects outlined by the mayoral council on a five-year contract. 

On average, a municipal manager earned (looking only at their basic salary) over R1-million in 2020 and 2019.

But municipal managers in Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kimberley earned more in 2020 than other municipal managers.

Tshwane’s municipal manager’s basic salary was R3,251,589 in 2019, but he resigned in August of that year. Between September 2019 and March 2020, two people acted as the municipal manager before the council appointed a new municipal manager in March 2020 who earned R710,300 from March to June 2020.

The municipal manager in Ekurhuleni earned the same basic salary of R3,182,420 for 2019 and 2020 and received an increase in 2021 to R3,185,399. In 2018, the manager earned R2,959,772.

But municipal managers don’t just receive their basic salary. The municipality covers their medical aid, pension, travel and cell phone bill, and municipal managers can receive performance bonuses. In some cases, the municipal managers have a housing allocation. 

So, if we include the additional benefits such as pension, medical aid, cell phone and travel allowances, Ekurhuleni’s municipal manager actually earned R3.2-million in 2018, R3.5-million in 2019 (despite earning the same basic salary as the year before), R3.8-million in 2020 and R4.1-million in 2021.

How much is a municipal manager allowed to earn?

Each year, cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) releases a scale with the minimum and maximum total annual salary for each municipality based on the the municipalities’ income, population and any financial allocations from Treasury.

Municipalities then use the scale to justify how much they pay their managers.

In the case of Ekurhuleni, in 2020 the municipality paid its municipal manager close to the yearly salary cap Cogta had set for municipal managers at R3.9-million.

Salary outliers

In the case of the Northern Cape’s Sol Plaatje (Kimberley) and the Eastern Cape’s Senqu, the municipal managers received an increase each year with Senqu’s municipal manager receiving performance bonuses of more than R300,000 in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

While the Western Cape’s Drakenstein’s municipal manager received a smaller basic salary in 2019 compared to 2020.

Here is the breakdown.

The Sol Plaatje’s municipality manager received an increase between 2018 and 2020 from earning a basic salary of R1.7-million (2018), R2.2-million (2019) to R2.3-million (2020). The total salary (including car allowance and medical aid and pension) was R2.1-million in 2018, R2.4-million in 2019 and R2.5-million in 2020.

In Drakenstein, where the municipal council seat is Paarl, the basic salary of the municipal manager was R1.2-million in 2018, increasing to R1,989,187 in 2019. The manager’s salary decreased to R1,987,402 in 2020 – even though the same municipal manager held the top bureaucrat position in Paarl in those three years. The total salary (including medical aid, pension and performance bonuses) was R1.9-million in 2018, R2.2-million in 2019, and decreasing to R2-million in 2020.

In Senqu, where the municipal council seat is Lady Grey, the basic salary of its municipal manager was R1.69-million in 2018, R1.8-million in 2019 and R1.9-million in 2020. The municipal manager’s total salary (including performance bonus, contribution to the unemployment insurance fund, telephone and travel allowances) was R2-million in 2018, R2.1-million in 2019 and R2.4-million in 2020. The reason for the big increase between the basic and total annual salary for the Senqu municipal manager was because of three big performance bonuses: R358,755 awarded in 2018 for work in the 2016/17 financial year, R387,163 awarded in 2019 for the 2017/18 financial year and R412,698 awarded in 2020 for the 2018/19 financial year.

Methodology: Data sourced from the Treasury. Audited and unaudited annual financial statements were used to complete the dataset.

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