Home Opinion and Features The Millionaire Factory: South Africa’s public service payroll

The Millionaire Factory: South Africa’s public service payroll


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: In an alternate universe where money sprouts from bureaucratic trees, the South African government has outdone itself. Behold, the public service transformed into a veritable millionaire factory. With a flourish of their magic fiscal wands, they’ve conjured over R45 billion from taxpayers’ empty pockets, generously distributing it among 37,000 of their most “hardworking” employees.

Picture: “The Money Tree” by MS Dabbler

By Monty Quill

IN AN ALTERNATE universe where money grows on bureaucratic trees, the South African government has outdone itself by turning its public service into a veritable millionaire factory.

With a wave of their magic fiscal wand, they’ve managed to conjure up over R45.4 billion from taxpayers’ empty pockets to generously distribute among 37,000 of their most ‘hardworking’ employees.

That’s right, and it bears repeating, the government spent R45.4 billion over the last year on salaries for 37,839 state-paid public servants who each earned over R1 million per annum.

Why? Because nothing says ‘public service’ like a platinum-plated paycheck. Forget about schools, hospitals and roads – let’s focus on elevating bureaucrats.

Welcome to the great South African salary safari, where public servants roam the lush plains of government departments, grazing on a rich diet of six-figure salaries. Here, the term ‘public service’ is synonymous with ‘public jackpot’.

Once upon a time, in the land of fiscal responsibility, there lived a group of modest public servants. But alas, that fairytale ended when someone discovered the secret vault of government gold. Now, every public servant dreams of the day they too can join the elite club of millionaire mandarins.

In this land of plenty, golden handshakes are not just for farewells. They’re an everyday greeting, a midday snack, and a goodnight kiss. The government’s payroll department must have mistaken the ‘pay’ button for ‘play’, because they’ve been having a field day with the National Treasury.

The Millionaire Factory’s output has seen a dramatic increase over the years. A decade ago, there were only 10,000 officials earning R1 million per year. Fast forward to 2023/24, and we have 55,000 government employees earning above the R1 million figure. Talk about a millionaire boom!

Meanwhile, the average taxpayer is left scratching their head, wondering if they accidentally stumbled into an episode of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Government Edition.’ Yes, the same taxpayers who are grappling with the most profound cost-of-living crisis in a generation. They watch in awe as their hard-earned money takes a detour from public services and ends up in the pockets of these newly minted millionaires.

Ordinary citizens tighten their belts, surviving on a diet of hope and instant noodles, as they watch as their hard-earned rands vanish into the abyss of bureaucracy. “Why,” they cry, “must we fund the lavish lifestyles of millionaire cadres?”

But despite the outcry and criticism, the factory shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, certain government employees are set to receive a 4.7% salary increase in April.

In the end, the Millionaire Factory continues its production, oblivious to the plight of the common man.

So, if you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, forget cryptocurrencies and lotteries. Just get yourself a job in the South African public service. Who needs Bitcoin when you have ‘Govcoin’?

* The views expressed here are those of the writer alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the DFA.


  • According to the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Noxolo Kiviet, the number of public servants in provincial and national government departments being paid over R1 million per year totals 37,839.
  • 28,343 public servants are currently paid just over R1 million per year
  • 8,748 are paid between R1.2 million and R1.7 million
  • 631 millionaire managers get over R1.7 million
  • 117 officials are paid over R2.1 million per year
  • In total, a single year of salary payments to these 37,839 highly-paid public servants costs taxpayers over R45 billion.
  • Some of the employees earning over R1 million annually include doctors, school principals, senior management police officials, department heads, director-generals, directors, chief directors and chief financial officers.
  • Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said in his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement that around 55,000 government employees – which includes executives at state-owned entities, municipalities and government agencies – earn over R1 million per year.
  • The government employee wage bill skyrocketed from R408 billion in 2013/14 to R724 billion in 2023/24.

ALSO READ: The Northern Cape: Where time stands still … and so does law enforcement

Previous articleCapitec’s success is a beacon of hope for new entrants as they eat legacy banks’ lunch
Next articleSACP to join ANC in bid to appeal MK Party judgment