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EDITORIAL | The wages of SA’s pay gap will be death

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EDITORIAL | The wages of SA’s pay gap will be death

If a company can pay its CEO an annual salary of R360m, how can it say no to a R1,000 increase for its workers?

Editorial

SA carries the dubious honour of being among the most unequal countries in the world. A glance through the annual World Wealth Report for 2022, compiled by the Thomas Piketty-backed World Inequality Lab, reveals numbers that should play on the conscience of even the greediest millionaires. Our average national annual income is R117,260 but the bottom 50% of South Africans earn a yearly average of R12,340. This as the top 10% earn a staggering 60 times more than that, about R780,300.

“While democratic rights were extended to the totality of the population after the end of apartheid in 1991, extreme economic inequalities have persisted and been exacerbated,” the World Wealth Report states. “Post-apartheid governments have not implemented structural economic reforms (including land, tax and social security reforms) sufficient to challenge the dual economy system ... Descendants of slave owners continue to own most of the wealth.”

It is the entrenched inequalities of apartheid that brought us to this point and its legacy continues to hold us hostage. Some wealth has shifted among the top rich but the gap between SA’s richest and poorest has not narrowed. The most recent case in point is Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman, whose R300m pay package in 2021 became public knowledge in the company’s annual report last week. The timing could not have been worse. Mining unions NUM and Amcu had just rejected Sibanye’s final offer to increase entry-level workers’ wages by R850 a year, up from a R700 offer in February. The unions are demanding R200 more — a R1,000 a month salary hike...

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