If I stayed in Parliament, I'd forfeit half my benefits - Mildred Oliphant explains resignation

2019-06-13 13:50
Mildred Oliphant. (Photo by Morapedi Mashashe)

Mildred Oliphant. (Photo by Morapedi Mashashe)

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Former labour minister Mildred Oliphant says Parliament's benefits structure should be reviewed, as many former ministers have to consider forfeiting half of a loss-of-office gratuity if they are demoted.

In an interview on PowerFm on Thursday morning, Oliphant explained that she resigned as a Member of Parliament, partly to avoid losing benefits at a certain salary level.

News24 earlier reported that Oliphant was the latest in a string of resignations to hit the National Assembly. She joins a list of former ministers who resigned after they were left out of President Cyril Ramaphosa's recently formed Cabinet.

READ: What former ministers could lose if they stay on as MPs

Speaking to PowerFM, Oliphant said: "What happens when you are deployed, whether as a Member of Parliament or as a minister, it's not lifetime deployment. So you are deployed for a certain term, it will be up to the leadership that will come in at that particular time to say whether you are further reappointed as the minister."

Asked why she resigned, Oliphant said that "unfortunately, the situation when it comes to the calculation of benefits for members is based on your last salary that you've been receiving…

News24 previously reported on the benefits former ministers stand to lose if they continue to serve as ordinary MPs.

"I know that maybe the public can say, but why should I consider taking a package rather than continuing to serve? The public must also understand, we also have a responsibility for our family and if you look at the benefits, if I had to stay in Parliament, looking at my last salary, I would be forfeiting around 50 to 55 per cent of the benefits."

'No need to leave, if...'

She also said that the second reason was that a lot of experienced former ministers could be deployed elsewhere, but that their parliamentary funds couldn't be transferred to a new fund, as is the case with some corporate pensions.

"Immediately, when you are deployed outside of Parliament then you won't be able to contribute to the same fund and also, you will be out of the parliamentary system.

"I think the challenge here is the way the benefits are calculated... if your benefits are not going to be affected when you have been deployed, whether in the executive or as a chief whip or as speaker, then everybody can remain there because there would be no need for you to leave," Oliphant added.

Oliphant acknowledged that when her party deployed members, it was for a five-year term and it was not obligated thereafter to reappoint a member in a given position.

Reflecting on her tenure as labour minister, Oliphant she said it was an honour to finish her term. She had worked well under both former president Jacob Zuma and Ramaphosa.

Other resignations

Fourteen members of the previous Cabinet did not make it into Ramaphosa's new Cabinet announced in May, News24 reported.

Oliphant joins former Minister of Human Settlements Nomaindia Mfeketo, former Minister of State Security Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, former Minister of Social Development Susan Shabangu, former Minister of Sports and Recreation Tokozile Xasa, former Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele, former Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe, former Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini, and former Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom in the growing list of former Cabinet members of those who resigned ordinary members of Parliament. 

Other members, such as Nomvula Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba, declined their seats in Parliament before they were sworn in.

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