South Africa

State of turmoil: From cadre deployment to a compliant, self-sabotaging bureaucracy

By Ranjeni Munusamy 25 March 2015

At a local government summit in Midrand on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma said government should have in its employ people with high skills and capacity to improve efficiency. “Don’t employ people because you feel for them or they are your friend or cousin. Employ people to do work,” Zuma said. Yet from the police to Eskom to the National Prosecuting Authority, it would seem that those in power want to develop a loyalist cult in the bureaucracy rather than having a skilled, capable state. What is happening is in fact the sabotage of the ANC’s own policy of cadre deployment with internal wrangling, court battles and power struggles impairing the functionality of the state. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

On Tuesday, the head of the Hawks in Gauteng Shadrack Sibiya returned to work after winning a high court battle to stay in his job. This is after Judge Elias Matojane delivered a scathing assessment of the acting Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza, calling him “biased and dishonest” and making false statements under oath. Matojane also said Ntlemeza lacked “integrity and honour”. But Ntlemeza is not giving up the battle, announcing on Tuesday that he would appeal the judgment and petition the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) if he is refused leave to appeal.

Must be nice to have political backing and an endless supply of state funds at your disposal to pursue every legal avenue in a power struggle that has long ceased to make any sense.

Meanwhile, the national head of the Hawks, Anwa Dramat, remains in limbo and unable to perform his duties with the Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko also trying all means to boot him out. With Nhleko being frustrated in his efforts to remove Sibiya and Dramat, he proceeded on Tuesday to successfully place the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) Robert McBride on suspension.

Also on Tuesday, it emerged that the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mxolisi Nxasana had been served with a summons as the police were unable to track down his deputy Nomgcobo Jiba. Jiba, who has apparently gone AWOL, has to appear in court on charges of fraud and perjury. This is regarding her decision to authorise racketeering charges against the KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen.

Jiba, like Ntlemeza, also faced the wrath of the judges. Twice. In February, Judge Trevor Gorven condemned her decision to prosecute Booysen, saying: “Even accepting the least stringent test for rationality imaginable, the decision of the NDPP does not pass muster.”

“I can conceive of no test for rationality, however relaxed, which could be satisfied by her explanation. The impugned decisions were arbitrary, offend the principle of legality and, therefore, the rule of law and were unconstitutional,” Gorven said.

In August last year, in a ruling on the “Spy Tapes” matter, the SCA had some damning words about Jiba, who had been the acting NDPP. Judge Mohammed Navsa said Jiba did not perform her duties and behaved in a way that cannot be explained in law. “This conduct is not worthy of the office of the NDPP. Such conduct undermines the esteem in which the office of the NDPP ought to be held by the citizenry of this country,” Navsa said.

These devastating indictments on the integrity of people serving in high profile positions in the state, supposedly key players in the crime-fighting machinery, seems to make little impact on the political support they receive over their opponents. While they might be compromised in the eyes of the judiciary and the public, their political principals appear to prefer them over people who are willing and able to do their jobs.

They win favour because they are able to sacrifice themselves and their integrity to fight proxy battles on behalf of their political masters.

The latest fiasco playing out at Eskom is a case in point. Two weeks ago, Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi announced the suspension of four of the utilities senior executives, including the chief executive officer, pending the completion of an internal inquiry. In the meantime, Tsotsi’s proposals for the inquiry have been rejected by the Eskom board, which now wants him removed. But now allegations are mounting that the strings at Eskom are being pulled by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and President Jacob Zuma.

Much of what goes wrong in government is blamed on cadre deployment – the deliberate appointment of high-ranking or connected ANC members into key positions in the state. The ANC has defended the policy of cadre deployment, saying it is the right of any administration to appoint people they trusted into strategic positions in government departments and state institutions.

The problem though is that the problems compromising the integrity and functioning of state institutions is not so much about the wrong people in the wrong jobs, as the critics of cadre deployment would assume. The matter is far more complex.

At its 2012 national conference in Mangaung, the ANC declared a “Decade of the Cadre” and adopted resolutions to “produce a contingent of cadres who are conscious, competent, committed, disciplined and conscientious”. The conference also resolved that “all state institutions embark on massive training and re-skilling and develop a cadreship corps that has the strategic, ideological, political and technical skills to respond to national development priorities”.

What the conference did not plan for was the collision of cadre deployment with the need to develop a compliant bureaucracy that places political protection above the national development priorities.

In most of the battles playing out in government and state institutions, whether it is Office of the Public Protector or the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the source of trouble are people who refuse to toe the political line. Whoever decides to carry out their duties by the book instead of bowing to political pressure, participating in grand cover ups or following instructions from higher up, inevitably runs into trouble.

In the case of people like McBride, Dramat, SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, all of whom have outstanding credentials in the ANC and are highly capable of doing their jobs, it is the unravelling of cadre deployment. By standards set by the ANC in conference resolutions, all these people should be the flag bearers in the “Decade of the Cadre”. Instead, they are all running into trouble with the power brokers in the state because they fail to comply with political instructions.

This is what makes Zuma’s message to the South African Local Government Association assembly on Tuesday so inconsistent.

“It is important that we tighten how we operate. If you employ a sweeper, don’t employ someone who is just going to dust on top and not sweep under the table. Also, employ someone who is passionate about cleaning,” the president said.

“Don’t employ people because you feel for them or they are your friend or cousin. Employ people to do work,” he went on to say.

Zuma cannot advocate for a skilled, capable state staffed by people committed to their jobs in one layer of government when skilled, capable people committed to their jobs are being hounded out elsewhere. It undermines the message, integrity and the capacity of the state.

The campaign to create an acquiescent cult in key positions in the bureaucracy, irrespective of these people’s credibility, conduct and ability, is in fact contributing to an effective sabotage of the state. The battles playing out make little sense to people outside the power networks, and befuddles everyone from the judges to those in the lower rungs of the state machinery. These battles cripple institutions, and sometimes the damage cannot be undone for years to come.

And the question that must be asked is: what happens when there is a change of leadership in the state? Do incoming administrations inherit the chaos and the power struggles? Do they create new battles to install their own contingent of loyalists? And what happens to state institutions rendered dysfunctional and compromised as so many are now?

These are all questions the ANC should confront at its midterm national general conference in June, when it assesses the implementation of its 2012 conference resolutions. How would it measure the success of the “Decade of the Cadre” when so many of its cadres are under siege from other cadres in the state?

There can either be a pursuit of the ANC’s national development goals through the building of a capable state, or a compliant cluster of senior officials who serve to protect their political masters and do only their bidding. Since one cancels the other, regardless of public manifestations and commitment to make them both work under the same state umbrella, the ANC at the end can only chose one. One of them would effectively loosen the powerful grip the party has on every aspect of our public life; experts this country needs are not necessarily the ANC diehards. The other would continue to lead the country into an ever-increasing sense of a state at war with itself and that is set up to serve only an exceedingly small and politically connected minority.

Until the ruling party makes a choice, any choice, the spectre of a self-sabotaging state will continue to dominate the public discourse. It might prove futile as the coincidence of an effective one party state, cadre deployment and sacrificing of state institutions to protect the political elite is simply unsustainable. DM

Photo: President Jacob Zuma is seen during a meeting with members of the SA Editors’ Forum at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria on Friday, 20 February 2015. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

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