South Africa

Cadre deployment with a twist: Factional battles prompt ANC to think outside the box

By Ranjeni Munusamy 20 May 2015

While the ANC trumpets its 'good story to tell', it is not blind to its weaknesses and trouble spots. ANC leaders might not admit them publicly but these are reflected in internal documents. When it comes to local government, the ANC is quite aware that if drastic measures are not taken, they will be in for a terrible beating in next year’s municipal elections. The appointment of South African Football Association (Safa) boss Danny Jordaan as mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay comes after several previous interventions to stop factional battles and clean up corruption failed. Reaching outside its talent pool might be the ANC’s only option, but this comes with its own set of problems. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

Safa boss Danny Jordaan has never had a noticeable presence in politics. Yes, he was an ANC parliamentarian after the first democratic elections, but only rose to prominence when he was out of active politics. He may have attended ANC conferences but not as a voting delegate. It is difficult to find anything he has said over the past two decades that is vaguely political as he has been with Safa since 1997 and began serving in Fifa structures since 1998.

It may have come as a surprise to many people on Tuesday when Jordaan defended his appointment by the ANC as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay by saying it did not conflict with his Safa role as he does not receive a salary for that. There could not be very many people in the country that would’ve given a second thought to what Jordaan’s real (paying) job is.

So while Jordaan may be an ANC member, he is not a political “cadre” as the term is generally understood. Presidents, ministers, premiers, MECs and mayors are front line “cadres” as full time political positions in the three spheres of government. While ANC members are in all sectors of society, including state owned companies and business, the political posts are top of the food chain.

While appointments to the national Cabinet are the prerogative of the president, political appointments in the provinces and municipalities generally come from corresponding ANC structures. People are deployed to government or Parliament through an ANC list process, where branches make nominations and these are consolidated at a national list conference.

The intervention by ANC officials in Nelson Mandela Bay this week is therefore out of the ordinary. They had to parachute Jordaan into the mayoral position without him being nominated by any branch to serve in the metro. The ANC is hoping that Jordaan’s stature and track record as a national and international figure in football will translate into confidence in his leadership as mayor in an area where people are progressively disenchanted with the ANC.

So what does this mean for cadre deployment? The ANC still vows by the policy and that is unlikely to change. After the elections last year, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said cadre deployment was not a “swear word”. “You cannot expect the ANC to depend on people who are hostile to the position of the ANC,” Mantashe said. He said the ANC would not do away with cadre deployment as it was “the alignment of the administration and political leadership”.

You must appoint competent people who understand our programmes,” Mantashe said. If cadre deployment were to be set aside, the ANC would run into disarray. “You will have graduates and businessmen and women who are competent, but who are hostile to the programme of the ANC. You can’t expect that to work,” Mantashe said then.

But in 2012, in its 53rd national conference resolutions, the ANC identified there were problems in the cadre deployment programme. It said “the neglect of cadre policy is at the centre of most of the current weaknesses and challenges”. “Our revolution will only succeed if the movement continuously produces a contingent of cadres who are conscious, competent, committed, disciplined and conscientious,” the resolution read.

In the new phase of the NDR (national democratic revolution), deployment should always be preceded by systematic academic, ideological, and ethical training and political preparation. Cadre deployment should be underpinned by a rigorous system of monitoring and evaluation of the performance of cadres deployed and elected to leadership positions. This will avoid a situation wherein leadership assessment and evaluation take place only in the run-up to conferences.”

The resolution further said that in order to achieve this, there should be a rollout of a comprehensive political school system at national, provincial, regional, sub-regional, zonal and branch level. This has obviously not happened and neither has a “programme to raise the level of literacy, education and skills” amongst ANC members.

With the approach of the local government elections, and some metros now in the danger zone with the possibility of the ANC losing its majority status, it is too late to start training and upgrading skills on the scale required. Successive reports of the Auditor General reflected that the poor performance and qualified reports in municipalities were due to the dearth of skills and capacity, weak financial management and lack of leadership. Procurement corruption in municipalities has also been rife, including in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The ANC’s decision to appoint Jordaan as mayor means that they were unable to find a suitable candidate in the party structures in that region that would rise above the factional battles but also with the required skills set. They therefore opted for a candidate who is an ANC member and would still conform to the party’s policies and programmes, but could jack up the image and performance of the metro with the administrative and leadership skills he possesses.

Jordaan will have to shake things up considerably to be able to win back the confidence of voters who have lost faith in the ANC and prevent the party losing control of the metro. If he does not succeed in doing so, he will have to return to concentrating full time on his non-paying position in Safa because he presumably would not want to stay on as a councillor in a Democratic Alliance-run municipality. This will be a knock to him personally and to the ANC’s experiment with deploying “outside the box”.

But Jordaan’s appointment could stir up other problems. There are obviously established political and business networks in that province that were benefitting financially and otherwise in the atmosphere of chaos and weak leadership. Those networks will be nervous about how their access to power and resources would be affected by Jordaan’s appointment. There might also be resentment in ANC structures about Jordaan being parachuted in, undermining the party’s democratic processes.

What Jordaan’s appointment has shown is that the ANC’s senior leaders realise there are areas of serious trouble and that they need to deal with the skills deficit, weak leadership and corruption or the party will pay the price. It could work or it could be too little too late. It could also backfire badly and intensify the factional battles in that province.

ANC structures will be watching the events closely, as other troubled areas may also be imposed with similar quick fix appointments. If the ANC’s top leadership is now thinking out of the box on mayoral appointments, perhaps they would also be open to specialists and better equipped people, who are not ANC loyalists, being appointed to other areas in government.

This could include ministries with troubled portfolios, as well as state institutions and parastatals. Perhaps there could also be room to bring back capable people who left the public service in previous rounds of factional battles.

If the talent pool is broadened beyond party loyalty, there is a possibility for some really innovative appointments. Imagine having someone run the SABC who is actually qualified and knows that they are doing. Or a minister of energy who is not in the dark herself. We might even get a state security minister who doesn’t troll fake blogs for intelligence information. (Note that this was just for illustration, the actual wish list would have been way too long to present in a single story.)

The door has now been opened so who knows who might walk through it next? DM

Photo: Then South Africa 2010 Bid Committee CEO Danny Jordaan (C) is welcomed by cheering youngsters in Soweto after a tour in an open-topped bus, Sunday 16 May 2004. EPA/JON HRUSA.

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