Community Work Programme workers upset over R3,700 a month earning limit

Workers say they must submit bank statements for three months and are fired if they earn above this limit

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

25 August 2023

A Community Work Programme worker from Kariega said colleagues have been fired for earning more than R3,700 a month. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

“We’re being fired every day, for earning over R3,700 a month,” said a worker employed by the Community Work Programme (CWP) in KwaNobuhle, Kariega.

CWP workers fall under the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). They work at sites such as clinics, schools and gardening projects. They work eight days a month and get a stipend of R960. There are about 260,000 CWP workers in the nine provinces. The programme was launched in 2010, as “an innovative offering from the government to provide a job safety net for unemployed people of working age”.

“Since April this year, our supervisors require us to submit banking details either to CWP offices or on site, so that those among us that are found to be earning over R3,700 in combined wages, could face dismissal,” said the worker.

She said their banking details are to be monitored quarterly.

There have been numerous protests since the inception of the programme over the amount of the stipend.

Because of the low wage, many CWP workers have moonlighted as security guards, Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers, Education Assistants and some are also ward committee members.

COGTA management ordered that CWP workers earning over R3,700 a month in combined stipends be removed. Working in different spheres of government simultaneously also appears outlawed.

“The only way you see that you’re fired is when you don’t see your name in timesheets when you come to work,” an axed CWP worker from Gqeberha told GroundUp.

“I was earning R2,000 a month as well as being a CWP worker, taking home R2,960 a month in combined stipends,” the fired worker said.

“I was fired for working for two government spheres and was reminded of a circular that stated that you can’t be working for different government departments.”

Maanda-Ashu Workers Union of South Africa (MAWUSA) national spokesperson Simphiwe Hlafa said, “We are totally opposed to this policy … Our government has reduced CWP to a modern slavery institution, the objective of which is to confine poor masses into gullibility for them to continue voting the incumbent into power.”

“Additionally, the policy was not canvassed amongst critical CWP stakeholders.”

According to COGTA nearly all participants work two days a week (eight days a month). A small number work five days a week as supervisors and storekeepers and earn R2,700 a month. CWP supervisors and storekeepers also said this week that COGTA had requested them to submit bank statements for three months.

COGTA has said that the rationale behind the eight-day work month was to allow participants to engage in other work as long as their socio-economic situation remains the same.

But COGTA spokesperson Legadima Leso in response to a request for comment asked: “Where have you heard of a CWP earning over R3,700 in a job designed for people to earn R960 for 8 days?”

He confirmed that CWP workers do not qualify for the programme if they earn above R3,700 a month, and that they may not work in other government works programmes.