Cadre Deployment - Why the ANC’s Policy of Positions for Pals Must End

For the past 27 years, since first coming to power in 1994, the ANC has implemented a policy of cadre deployment.

This is the process whereby as many senior positions as possible (not only in government but also the security forces and state-owned enterprises) are filled either by ANC members or people loyal to the party’s politics and agenda.

In the first few years after independence, this policy was perhaps justified as it strove to hasten the transition away from the legacy of the Apartheid government.

Indeed, as ANC veteran and Corruption Watch chairperson Mavuso Msimang says, cadre deployment started off with noble intentions. Tragically, however, it quickly morphed into a vehicle of state capture, and led to the unchecked plunder of public resources.

For millions of South Africans, this has played out in the abject failure of several State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), as well as of hundreds of municipalities across the country.

  • Over a third of all municipalities ended the 2019/2020 financial year in deficit.
  • 27% doubt their ability to continue as a going concern.
  • Just 27 of South Africa’s 257 municipalities have a clean bill of financial health, according to the local government 2019/20 audit.
  • 57 councils (almost one in four), failed to deliver any kind of financial statement by the statutory audit deadline.
  • Of the 45-billion taxpayers contributed via the national purse to municipalities through equitable share and conditional grant allocations, only R980-million remained by municipal financial year-end.

“Nobody is reporting. Nobody is accounting. Nobody is sure where the money went,” said Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke.

As for the SOEs, the picture is no less bleak:

The Auditor-General’s 2019/2020 financial report shows government issued guarantees of R445 billion to 11 in-trouble state-owned enterprises – of which R350 billion was to Eskom.

And what did they use the money for?  To obtain an additional R374 billion in loans.

Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. The problem is, who pays Peter back? And where will the money come from?

There is absolutely no doubt that the policy of cadre deployment is at the very heart of this problem, helping to fuel corruption and misgovernance. By blurring the vital distinction between party and state, it now threatens the very democratic order of our country.

And of course, there’s also the not insignificant issue of it being wholly unconstitutional.

Section 197(3) of our Constitution states: “No employee of the public service can be preferred or favoured because that person supports a certain political party or issue.”

Surely no one can argue that cadre deployments puts a middle finger up at that one.

Somewhere along the line, the ANC appears to have lost sight of the fact that it is mandated to serve the people of South Africa, not its own leadership.

Unfortunately, and this is perhaps the crux of the problem, there is currently no legislation that can be brought into play to hold the government accountable for its blatant cadre deployment policies.

It is free to appoint whomever it likes, in whatever positions it chooses, regardless of whether or not any of the appointments are suitably qualified or experienced to handle their roles. In fact, it is frequently the case that they are completely unsuitable for their position.

In a rare occasion where this was actually admitted, the Helen Suzman Foundation report refers to former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane saying he had appointed two special advisers “without any knowledge of what they were doing for a living, or even if they were qualified for the position.”

Sadly, this appears to be the case with the majority of appointments made by the ANC.

Embracing cadre deployment as a widespread, if publicly unacknowledged policy has seen once prosperous state-owned enterprises slide into incompetence and bankruptcy. It is responsible for dragging the reputation and prestige of the ANC, once hailed as heroic liberators and the ultimate People’s Party, through the mud. And it is directly behind the misappropriation (and in some cases, blatant theft) of billions in public funds.

Is The Zondo Commission Our Only Hope?

The biggest (some would venture, only) shining light in all this darkness is the Zondo Commission, whose final report is now due (after yet another extension) at the end of this year.

Predicted to be a game-changer for the future of our beloved country, the report is set to outline what must be done to change the conditions in which corruption has been allowed to rage, unchecked, for well over a decade.

The Democratic Alliance has often stated its hope that the report will confirm its own view that “cadre deployment is an unconstitutional abuse of power that provides the very foundation for state capture and corruption.”

Dr Leon Schreiber, the DA’s public service and administration spokesperson, said in a statement that the Zondo Commission has already dismissed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lame excuses that the deployment committee merely makes innocent “recommendations.”

Not that this appears to be stopping the ANC from continuing to protest its innocence. ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe said the party did not have a “cadre deployment” policy, but he said it did have a “deployment policy.”

Ramaphosa himself stated:

“It should be noted that the deployment of cadres to strategic positions is not unique to the ANC. It is practised in various forms and through various mechanisms — even if not always acknowledged as such — by other political parties in SA and in other countries.

“It is the ANC’s view that the practice of cadre deployment should not be inconsistent with the principles of fairness, transparency and merit in the appointment of individuals to public entities. Cadre deployment cannot be faulted in principle; it is a common feature of democratic practice around the world. But we would concede that there are weaknesses in its practical implementation that make the case for greater clarity, both within political parties and the state.”

Am I the only one who thinks that all smacks more than a little of trying to put lipstick on a pig?

As the DA stated in this Tweet:

“It’s clear that Ramaphosa does not want to walk away from the terrible cadre deployment policy. We saw an indecisive man who showed little commitment to fighting corruption. [Instead] he chose ANC unity.”

All we can do now is await the outcome of the final Zondo Commission report in December. At the moment, it would appear this is the only thing we have left on which to pin our dwindling hopes.