DM168 Reflection

Zondo commission must forget about semantics and focus on what really matters

By Sibusiso Ngalwa 17 April 2021

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe testifies at State Capture Inquiry on April 14, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is reported that the Commission heard Parliamentary Oversight-related evidence. (Photo by Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle)

What is the issue is the appointment of incompetent and unqualified individuals into senior government positions – thus weakening government.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture spent the better part of Wednesday, 14 April listening to ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe defend the party’s deployment policy – also known as cadre deployment.

At some point Mantashe spent time trying to distinguish between the ANC deployment policy and so-called “cadre deployment”. The two, according to him, are not the same. But the reality is that what Mantashe was arguing was a classic case of semantics.

Whether it is “cadre deployment” or “strategic deployment”, the bottom line is that the party has a policy with which it picks or recommends certain individuals to occupy senior and strategic positions in the government. Call it by whatever name, but it is deployment.

Political parties exist to further their interests and promote the interests of their voters. When in power, they are expected to seek to further their policy objectives. The ANC is no different.

Parties contest elections with the aim to take over power. Once in power they can then appoint a government to exercise power on behalf of the state.

By Mantashe’s admission, the ANC recommends the appointments of individuals from above director level all the way to directors-general. It also has a keen interest in who is appointed to lead state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

This is part of the party’s attempt to influence the government and carry out its policies. This is not unusual and is the case in almost all democracies.

What is the issue is the appointment of incompetent and unqualified individuals into senior government positions – thus weakening government.

In a written response to a parliamentary question posed by the DA, Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu revealed that 3,300 senior managers in the government did not have the requisite qualifications. And 60% of these senior managers are employed in national departments.

This is the hallmark of the ANC’s governance from national level all the way to local government level. While the picture painted by Mchunu looks dire, it is worse in municipalities that are at the coalface of service delivery.

Also at issue is the rampant corruption that is directly linked to these appointments. The appointment of the likes of Brian Molefe at Transnet, and later Eskom, and that of Lucky Montana at Prasa come to mind.

Molefe’s appointment was part of the corrupt scheme to further the financial interests of his and former president Jacob Zuma’s handlers, the Guptas. These are the classic cases of bad deployments. But it is not to say that all deployments are bad. In fact, a case of the right kind of deployment took place in the Western Cape when the DA took over power in 2009. This followed the clean-up of almost all the departments and the appointment of senior managers who were aligned to the party.

Those heads of department who had served under Ebrahim Rasool left. The direct result of this is the DA’s continued exemplary results in the audit outcomes announced by the Auditor-General.

Clean governance and public service excellence are at the centre of its policy.

But it would be political dishonesty for the DA to claim that the changes in the fortunes of the Western Cape government had nothing to do with strategic appointments in senior positions with people aligned to the party and its policies.

Therefore, the DA’s application using the Promotion of Access to Information Act – to obtain the complete records of all the ANC’s deployment committee meetings from 2013 to date – is nothing more than political grandstanding.

This is why Mantashe and the commission’s evidence leader Alec Freund SC arguing over whether there is “cadre deployment” in the ANC is neither here nor there. This we already know. Rather, the commission must call the ANC to account for its part in our state’s capture for narrow political ends. We have heard countless witnesses reveal how millions flowed from SOEs, via middlemen, to the ANC or leaders in the party.

This was the case at Eskom, at Prasa, at Denel and with IT company EOH.

For the commission to spend a whole day discussing semantics is but a waste of valuable taxpayer funds.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has already asked for two extensions to the commission’s term. He now has until June to wrap up his work and prepare a report. The bill for the commission stood at R800-million at the last count. With the commission’s lawyers already charging anything between R23,000 and R38,000 a day, we have to use our resources sparingly.

That’s a lot of money to be wasting valuable time arguing whether cadre deployment is the same thing as a deployment policy. DM168

This is an opinion piece by Sibusiso Ngalwa, who is the politics editor of Newzroom Afrika and chair of the South African National Editors Forum.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.

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All Comments 5

  • “Political parties exist to further their interests and promote the interests of their voters.”
    Although I agree with the first point I have to question the second point in this sentence.

  • An incisive and pertinent analysis. The costs of the commission are a tiny fraction of what has been looted. The real question is will the work of the commission result in any meaningful ‘changes’? Politics being what it is…there will be those who try to obfuscate(Mantashe et al) and deflect.

  • Spot on mate. Never argue semantics with Greedy Gwede. The Mantash king of absolute nonsensensical,unconnected and fairy tale stories. Like how renewables are connected to a lost cause Xhosa prophetess. Meanwhile his coal truck buddies damage on.

  • It is high time we respect each other.
    No party has a right to further its interest at the the nation’s expense.
    The switch to full franchise for everyone was to foster the interest of the nation. If a party in govt cannot do that, smart citizens will do that, unless the citizens are all asleep.

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