Editorial | When exec pay is a slap in workers’ faces

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Neal Froneman. Photo: Mary-Ann Palmer
Neal Froneman. Photo: Mary-Ann Palmer

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Just a few weeks ago, an economic report was released, which highlighted this dismal truth: South Africa, in terms of wealth distribution, is the most unequal country in the world.

Added to this are the compounded and lasting effects of a pandemic shutdown, the catastrophic flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and an unemployment rate pushing 36%. Among the younger population, this level is pushing 70%.

Worker salaries have remained largely stagnant. Increases have, in most cases, barely kept pace with inflation. As a consequence, the real standard of living for the majority of the population has been driven lower.

In fact, data suggest that the top 1% of individuals each have net wealth of R17.8 million, while the bottom 50% of South Africans have net wealth of -R16 000 (meaning they have more debt than assets).

Whitey Basson, CEO of Shoprite. Photo: Supplied

Yet, not all are so unfortunate. In the corporate world, the salaries paid to top executives appear irrationally excessive. Data suggest that the CEOs of the top companies in South Africa earn, on average, R24 million per year, while the minimum wage for workers is just R43 000 per year.                       Whitey Basson 

It has been reported that the lowest paid worker at Checkers would have to work for 290 years to earn what its then CEO – Whitey Basson – earned in one month.

Neal Froneman, the head honcho at Sibanye-Stillwater, scored a R300 million “performance”-based payout, while striking workers are demanding an increase of just a R1 000 a month. The optics of this kind of disparity are atrocious and no amount of rationalising can justify it.

This level of inequality serves no role in creating a sustainable or equal society.                        

Shareholder activism must be brought to bear on excessive executive pay. It may even be time to call for intervention to end this kind of obscene manifestation of capitalism.


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