South Africa


Ramaphosa’s testimony exposes the vast contours of the ANC’s shadow state

Ramaphosa’s testimony exposes the vast contours of the ANC’s shadow state
President Cyril Ramaphosa testifies at the State Capture commission in Johannesburg on 11 August 2021. (Photo: GCIS)

Evidence at the Zondo Commission reveals the powerful hand of Deputy President David Mabuza in how the state is shaped.

The questioning of President Cyril Ramaphosa by four evidence leaders in a marathon day of testimony at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has exposed how the ANC’s shadow state has come to dominate how South Africa works through a set of parallel party practices mostly obscure to ordinary citizens.

Evidence leader Paul Pretorius revealed that the ANC’s Deployment Committee is still mighty. Last Friday night, 6 August, the commission finally received some minutes of the committee which had been requested or subpoenaed from the ANC, and this allowed Pretorius to piece together key evidence.

“Certain themes arise from the minutes and what emerges as a practice or policy [is that], in large part, the Deployment Committee decides and instructs [on key appointments]. 

He continued: “The minister or the appointing authority recommends [a candidate for a role] and the Deployment Committee makes a decision, and it is then communicated.” 

Pretorius represented the Deployment Committee as a powerful supra-structure that overrode public appointment processes and which existed largely in the party’s shadows. 

“Ministers seek permission to proceed, and the Deployment Committee grants permission. Ministers get called to account. Loyalty to the ruling party, party membership, and compliance with party prescripts is an issue relevant to the appointment,” said Pretorius.

At its most serious, the implication of this is that a parallel state exists, which accounts to the party, not to the public.

Pretorius said that some of the minutes revealed that the ANC even took it upon itself to deploy judges, who are supposed to be appointed in a transparent process of nomination, interview, and shortlisting by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) before being appointed by the president on the recommendation of the JSC. Pretorius said the minutes showed that the practice continued.

“To 2021, final and binding commitments are made by the Deployment Committee and imposed on the appointing authority (government departments, state-owned enterprises, or state agencies and other public entities),” he said. 

The Deployment Committee is now headed by Deputy President David Mabuza, who has complained when key positions do not go through his committee. Ramaphosa said in his testimony in April that the committee had called him to account to it when he made appointments without getting them checked by Mabuza and its other members. 

It is likely that the appointment of axed defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngqakula as Speaker of the National Assembly this week came through the Deployment Committee even though Ramaphosa has taken heat for the face-saving cadre swop-out with Thandi Modise, who is now defence minister.

Ramaphosa defended deployment, but repeatedly insisted that, “for government positions, in the end, the legally mandated process must be followed”, adding: “it’s not an appointing committee, it’s a recommending committee”. He said deployment was important to achieve social ends like gender equality and that the ANC could not appoint judges.

“The party is where the power resides, [but] it is only one of the actors in our democracy,” he said. On the appointment of judges, Ramaphosa sought to downplay the party’s power, especially over judicial appointments, telling acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that, “The Deployment Committee notes there is a vacancy or two. Having done that, it knows that it is not the appointing structure.”

Until now, the Deployment Committee’s methods, power, and processes have been opaque, leading to the notion of a shadow state operating out of the field of public scrutiny or accountability.

“To remove this shroud of secrecy, the party should show its hand. Political parties do have their preferences. Maybe we need to grow up and see if the political process has matured,” said Ramaphosa, referring to the partisan US model of judicial selection. He said that the appointment of Shamila Batohi as the national director of public prosecutions was done by a public process, which he said should govern senior state appointments. 

While Ramaphosa said he had recommended Brian Molefe for the role of Eskom CEO (on secondment from Transnet), he said he was not aware of the outsized influence of the Gupta family in making appointments to the Eskom board. 

While the revelations about the Deployment Committee are the most obvious example of the ANC shadow state, another example is the war rooms that the government uses to deal with the energy crisis and with Covid-19. The now-disbanded National Coronavirus Command Council was another example of an opaque governing process displacing public policy-making. 

Ramaphosa faced extensive questions about how the Eskom war room operated when he was deputy president and why he (and not the board) had recommended that Tshediso Matona be replaced as the utility’s CEO in March 2015.

In the period of State Capture and when he was deputy president from 2014, the shadow state was in overdrive, and during that time Ramaphosa was excluded by his political principal, former president Jacob Zuma. 

Asked whether he knew about a Durban meeting in March 2015 with Zuma, his political doppelganger Dudu Myeni and Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi where they decided to fire key executives and replace the board, Ramaphosa said: “No, I was not aware of this meeting. I got to know about the suspensions in the media. They were suspended, and they were gone.” Asked if Zuma should have informed him, he said, “I was surprised that the president did not bring me into the loop. It just happened.”

While Ramaphosa said he had recommended Brian Molefe for the role of Eskom CEO (on secondment from Transnet), he said he was not aware of the outsized influence of the Gupta family in making appointments to the Eskom board. 

Evidence leader Pule Seleka told the president that businessman Henk Bester had testified that Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa had told him, “We will show you how powerful we are: we have decided that Mr Brian Molefe is the next boss of Eskom,” a long time before the appointment.

Ramaphosa replied “This is very complex. I think it was a coincidence [that he had recommended the same executive].”

Layers and layers of shadow systems and networks emerged in other evidence too. Leading evidence about the capture of Prasa, advocate Vas Soni drew Ramaphosa deep into the testimony of its former chairperson Popo Molefe. He asked why the top six members of the ANC had done nothing when Molefe told them about an attempt to torpedo the board led by former CEO Lucky Montana, with the assistance of ANC members at Parliament and with the acquiescence of then-transport minister Dipuo Peters.

Soni focused on how R79-million from a passenger rail contract at Prasa had been diverted to fund the ANC — a revelation the party had never dealt with. The questions implied that Popo Molefe had been hung out to dry because he had come too close to destabilising the unholy trinity between state-owned companies, tenders and party funding.

“It is highly inconceivable that we would have hung Popo Molefe out to dry so the board could collapse,” said Ramaphosa. But that is exactly what happened, and the passenger rail system in South Africa remains largely dysfunctional. (Molefe is now the Transnet board chairperson.) 

“The Prasa issue is depressing. One of the things I don’t understand is how it was possible for five years there would be no permanent CEO appointment,” said Zondo. All Ramaphosa could offer by way of reply was that he had started a State-Owned Enterprises Council, which is meant to oversee governance and has a computer “dashboard” that can reveal vacancies, numbers, and other key data as a transparency and governance tool. 

At many points of his testimony, Ramaphosa lapsed into platitudes. “The process you are involved with [the State Capture Inquiry] has galvanised us to start acting properly and correctly,” he told Zondo. Later, he said: “All the mishaps and things that we didn’t do properly are now being done properly and will be done properly.” He admitted to being left out of many key decisions Zuma had made as he ran the government from everywhere except the Union Buildings.

The shadow state, as outlined here by the country’s leading academics, refers to systems being repurposed to suit patronage networks. It continues to swirl around us. The ANC Deployment Committee is more powerful and organised than before, while whistle-blowers say some state-owned enterprises like Prasa are in the second capture phase.

Testimony continues. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    half full, or half empty people?

  • Johan Buys says:

    this was Ramaphosa at the most dishonest I’ve ever seen.

    No minutes? Careful, somebody kept emails and might enjoy embarrassing CR caught in a lie. Those emails are now worth a fortune.

  • Bruce MacDonald says:

    Hmmmmm . . . if it looks like Deep State, and it smells like Deep State . . . .

  • Derrick Kourie says:

    I listened to a large part of CR’s read out statement. I have a degree of sympathy for the low-key strategy he admits to having followed while deputy president. Most alternatives risked having him sidelined. What really scares me is that Mabuza is now deputy by virtue of his king-making role in electing CR. According to the report above, he seems intent on controlling the largely disgraced cadre deployment process still followed by the ANC. That gives him the power of patronage and leverage within the ANC, and a pathway to taking over from CR. That spells disaster!

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      Totally agree with your comments and worries. If something happens to CR we have a real problem…at present he is a moderate placating voice of reason we present to the world, not sure if the same can be said when Mabuza takes over as President…(which he is now in control of) I suspect it will be a feeding frenzy on what’s left when he takes over as a President – rather like the Mugabe who got away with both murder and Zimbabwe’s Assets ( or what was left of them!)

    • Gerhard Pretorius says:

      CR decided on his low-key approach because of self-interest, not as a strategy to protect the country. He wanted to become Big Man.
      Although he praises the role of whistleblowers, he was not prepared to become one. Thid smacks of hipocracy and spineless. In this regard dr. Khoza had the guts to walk away from the ANC. Not CR, as it would not give him the opportunity to become Big Man.

      • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

        You are so right.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          Love the self affirmation 😀

          Please for the love of all that is sacred can someone tell me:
          1. what the benefit would have been of CR “walking away”;
          2. if he had walked away, who realistically could fill his shoes;
          3. how it is that people are totally blind to the positives that we are seeing right now as a direct result of CR being our president.

          It could be so much worse. Back the president – don’t help create your own worst case scenario.

          • Gerhard Pretorius says:

            I will never just accept a leader who bends the truth and do a lot of spinning for selfish gains. Is CR transparent as is required to uphold democracy? Is he still supporting and defending cadre deployment, which is a massive portion of SA’s mediocracy? Why be silent when it was required to speak up? Why appearing to defend Zuma by keeping quiet? There are many ethical leaders in SA. To keep on supporting CR means to vote for the ANC because that is hiw he will remain Big Man. It is your demoxratic right to do so, and mine not to.

          • John L says:

            Possibly you can tell us what these positives are. Personally I see very little change, and still no one held responsible.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @gerhard – you are stating your opinion which is of course your prerogative, but you aren’t answering any of the question I am asking.

            Whatever your feelings I can say with certainty that you are deluding yourself if you think that by dissing CR you are helping the country. The ANC is not going to magically disappear.

            Also, supporting CR is not equivalent to supporting the ANC. Rather it is supporting his drive for positive change within the ANC – which there is clear visible evidence of since his coming to power. Again, I refer to question 2 above.

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            Failing to take a stand on nothing more than principle is precisely why we are where we are. Others walked away. Anyone in the ANC with a backbone would have joined them, instead of ridiculing and howling from the sidelines about “how cold it is outside the ANC.” Anyone with backbone would have voted as Makhosi Khoza did, against Zuma, against party orders. On principle. Consequences be damned.

            If more of the current supposed heroic messiahs had taken a principled stand back when it mattered, we likely would not currently be so desperately dependent on the “positives that we are seeing right now” just to survive as a functioning state.

            In my opinion Gerhard is correct in his view that Ramaphosa had acted in his own interest when it mattered most.

            Too little. Too late.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @divin43 – really? (and @hendrik)
            – Zuma is in jail.
            – things that would never have been spoken about are now in the public domain
            – Ace magashula is on the back foot.
            – Juju is completely quiet.
            – Karl Niehaus is gone.
            – our president attends the Zondo commission (which he is quite capable of squashing)
            – and there are many more….

            Is it perfect – of course not, but would any of it have happened under Zuma? Never.

            I would love to see any of you naysayers be confronted with the same mess CR is and do better. So prove me wrong and run for president or start a party if you feel you could do better.

            What CR needs is our support so that the ANC keep him in power. Alternatively If you want to give his many enemies further ammunition and really ensure this country goes down the toilet, keep undermining him as you all do so elegantly. (again – I refer you to my question 2 above)

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            It should never have come to this point. If Ramaphosa et al had had the backbone to stand up against corruption on principle from within the ANC, way back when Holomisa (for example) and others had had the guts to do so, then another course altogether, rather than the Zupta mess, would have been a very real possibility in my opinion.

            And no, I do not have to be a politician and run for president to be of the opinion that Ramaphosa et al are not messiahs, but rather just slightly better versions of the same unprincipled rotten cadres who put party before country and who will continue to do so, because it benefits them. I can have that opinion and I can voice it, because I am a tax-paying, voting citizen of this country, and that is enough to afford me that right.

            But the fact that you are suggesting otherwise puts your comments and opinion in context. It makes a lot more to me sense now.

          • Glyn Morgan says:

            No! Ramaphosa is sub-standard and always will be. The ANC is sub-standard and always will be. The must go! ASAP!

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            I love this.

            @glyn – ANC must go. – I agree – assuming its current form; but what are the odds of that happening in the timeframes needed before this country implodes (more)?

            @hendrik – you’ve mentioned some names sure, what are the realistic odds one of them will become prime minister in the timeframes needed before this country implodes (more)?

            @hendrik – as someone said of Helen Zille; she doesn’t understand when it is more important to be sensible than right. I ascribe the same to your position.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            :0 prime minister should read president

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            If being sensible means being dishonest, then I choose honesty.

            The problem with compromise is that the point where you stop compromising becomes a subjective decision. Everyone draws the line at a different point.

            If one acts on principle – i.e. if my colleagues, and my party as a whole, start breaking the law, then I will not be part of it and I will act against it – then decisions remain easy to make. If you go down the road of compromise then decisions become difficult to make.

            Party before country will never be right. You disagree, Richard. I accept that.

            I hope for your sake, and the sake of the poor, and the elderly, and the unemployed, and the children who still have to be educated and have a future ahead of them in this country, that your Ramaphoria is well-placed and that I am wrong.

            Time will tell whether compromise works. Or continue to tell, rather, because we are where we are because of compromise.

          • JOHN TOWNSEND says:

            There is walking away and walking away.In the first case, walking away back to the plaas without a backward glance would have helped no-one. In the second place, walking away and explaining publically what actually caused him to take this drastic step, detailing what was happening, I believe WOULD have benefitted the country. AS to your second point, isnt this the real problem with the ANC.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:


            Everyone sensible chooses honesty
            Everyone sensible also chooses educated, secure, equal, collaborative etc etc

            That is not the question though.

            The question right now is: what is the best way to move forward with what we have?

            I submit that whatever the answer is: it is certainly not perpetually moaning at, and undermining the only person with any power to help change the situation for the better.

            Either provide a workable alternative or try to work with what we do have.

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            “Everyone sensible chooses honesty” – your quote, Richard.

            Interesting then that Ramaphosa, your messiah, did not and continues to not choose honesty.

            Good luck with that messiah.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @hendrik 😀 lay out your solution brother – I’d love to hear it. …or you can just continue moaning, it’s easier.

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            Refusing to accept a dishonest, weak and compromised president is moaning? Really?

            And despite your claim to supporting honesty, your solution is to support him regardless of his dishonesty? Really?

            My solution does not include the ANC.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @hendrik – “not” is easy. What does your solution include?

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            A solution that does not include the ANC is difficult. More difficult than simply supporting a dishonest president, for whatever reason.

            In my view, supporting Ramaphosa, in full knowledge of and despite his blatant dishonesty and readiness to compromise at any cost, simply because you are scared of the alternative within the ANC, is the easy option.

            Oh the irony!

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @hendrik 😀 so, no solution then… I figured.

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            You figured wrong. Again.

        • Keith Scott says:

          Well said. CR is worse than Zuma because he covered up the latter’s nefarious activities and denies he knew about them. He is a crafty weasel who accumulated huge wealth while watching the country burn. The people of SA are being duped by this man.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @keith – I completely acknowledge that is a possibility. What would you recommend for South Africa?

      • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

        100%, Gerhard.

        Holomisa, Lekota, Shilowa, Khoza – those are some of the patriots who chose country above party a long time ago and who should therefore be instrumental in the running of the country. Instead they remain sidelined.

        Ramaphosa, Gordhan, et al, are relatively honest ANC puppets at best. Patriots they most definitely are not. Shame on them.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          should, could, would – but didn’t.

          Who is more effective in the list of names you mentioned – and why?

          Maybe, just maybe, it’s fools who rush in….

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            You ask for names. Names are suggested. You find fault with those names, suggesting that principled, respected patriots, who are worth 10 Ramaphosas in my opinion, for that simple fact, are fools.


          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            I don’t find fault and I certainly am not judging.

            I am simply making the observation that the list of people you mention first – the patriots – are irrelevant on the current political landscape.

            Whereas the ones you mention last – the puppets – are people who have the ability to change this country right now.

            You ascribe to know CR intimately and how he thinks? I don’t, but the following platitudes spring to mind when comparing the 2 groups you mention above:
            Fools rush in
            Softly catchee monkey
            Slow and steady
            Better bend than break
            Stilbly is ook antwoord

            What I am simply saying is that regardless of what you feel about him CR – the puppet – has done more in the last 2 years to change the direction of travel in SA than I have seen since zuma came to power. And he’s still going rather, than having been hung out to dry.

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            I do not ascribe to know Ramaphosa intimately.

            His actions, or inaction for that matter, give me information which I use to form an opinion of him. His actions and inaction tell me that he is prepared to compromise on matters of critical important to this country and its citizens, even if it means taking the country to the brink of complete failure and extreme hardship. For many individuals, ironically mostly people who probably voted for him, that compromise has taken them well beyond the point of extreme hardship and suffering – for some I suggest that it probably cost them their lives.

            You seem to insist that there is no way that much, much earlier action by Ramaphosa could not have prevented the Zupta disaster, or at the very least, stopped it much sooner. I believe that he could have and should have and he didn’t. I believe that that was deliberate. He knew. We all did.

            His current testimony in front of the Zondo commission confirms my opinion of him. I believe that his answers to the commission are not honest. I believe that he is still compromising. I believe that he is still putting the ANC before South Africa, contrary to an oath that he has sworn. And I believe that he is putting the ANC before South Africa, because it is in his personal interest. I can think of no other reason.

            If, as you seem to suggest, he is our only hope now, then it is because he and his party have brought us to this point. Therefore the hope that he brings gives me scant reassurance.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @gerhard – scant reassurance I definitely understand.

            Everything is relative however, and my point is simply that the only possible outcome of undermining CR is to empower the ANC “alternatives” …which fills me with the ‘scantest’ reassurance.

            (personally my feeling is that Cyril is quietly achieving way more than many people give him credit for – but I accept that I may turn out to be proven very wrong)

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            Calling a liar a liar is not undermining him! It is accurately describing what he is!

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @hendrik – at the risk of stating the obvious… so what.

            Now you’ve said it has anything changed for the better?

            I submit that you and many other commenters would do our country a far better service by proposing pragmatic approaches to resolving issues than just endlessly repeating Bad. Wrong. Naughty. Stupid.

            (which is better: running endlessly round and round in a cesspit with your friends complaining how bad the smell is; or helping each other find a way out?)

            As I have said – I don’t feel the same as you about CR, but regardless of whether I’m correct or not, not a single person I’ve engaged with here tonight has offered a single pragmatic alternative to CR. So, excuse me if I don’t join in the running round and round.

            That being said, any time you or anyone else feels like engaging in a constructive cesspit escape strategy discussion do please let me know.

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            Yes, you choose to support dishonesty. And you’re right. That is your choice.

            Don’t assume that that is the only solution, however, simply because you cannot think of anything other alternative, except to demand the name of someone else within the ANC to replace him.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            there really is no cure…

          • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

            Ad hominem? Really?

            But at least be man enough then to not hide behind just half an insult.

  • Robert Morgan says:

    ‘All the mishaps and things that we didn’t do properly are now being done properly and will be done properly’. This spineless jellyfish couldn’t correct a crossword puzzle. This is an admission of failure that needs redressing. None of his cadre placements have been anywhere near fit for purpose. The ANC, who can’t even drum up enough money to pay their own rank and file, has failed. That Ramaposeur thinks it’s hilarious every time he receives another ‘poisoned chalice’, is a clear demonstration of the length to which he is comfortable cocking his snoot. This is beyond farce.

  • Dana Cooper says:

    Please list the members of the Deployment Committee? Who are these shadow people?

  • Miles Japhet says:

    There is no chance of the policy shift required to kickstart this economy, let alone move away from unqualified cadre deployment and rent seeking!! Tragic for the poor.

  • Gerhard Pretorius says:

    The Deployment Committee is run along the same lines as the apartheid government’s Broederbond. What a disgrace that the ANC with its public stance of deep democracy is nothing but a smokescreen for deep corruption.
    The ANC did not produce a shadow state, but one where the shadow is nothing but total darkness. CR appears to be a smooth operator, but this image is but the varnish covering the rot underneath.

  • Wilhelm Boshoff says:

    ANC = Zuma = Ramaphosa = Ace = Collective = Corrupt

    Stop expecting so much….

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    The only way that stste capture will be stopped is if cadre deployment is ended, but unfortunately that is never going to happen unless the ANC is voted out of power, as the ANC views itself as being synonymous with the State, and that it is entitled to govern and live off of public resources forever. The country will never recover while this situation persists, and unfortunately the situation continues to worsen for the economy and the general public.

  • Alex Krummenacher says:

    not aware, unaware, not informed, surprised, the list goes on …he can certainly not be a placating face to the world ????

  • Stephen T says:

    (sarcasm) Oh wow, a bunch of communists pretending to have democratic ideals is uncovered to be just another glorified patronage scheme! Who would have thought! (/sarcasm)

    Just like _every other communist revolutionary movement the world has ever seen_. It never ceases to boggle my mind how so much of the world still believes in this diabolical ideology. The human species as a whole is truly pathetic.

  • Donal Slemon says:

    ‘mishaps’..?! No you fool. A mishap is when you spill coffee on your laptop; when a municipality overcharges you; when you drop a bread-knife on your foot.
    What you’re trying to describe and cover up is a monumental nationwide catastrophe dressed up as policy.

  • hilton smith says:

    “The Prasa issue is depressing. One of the things I don’t understand is how it was possible for five years there would be no permanent CEO appointment,” said Zondo. All Ramaphosa could offer by way of reply was that he had started a State-Owned Enterprises Council, which is meant to oversee governance and has a computer “dashboard” that can reveal vacancies, numbers, and other key data as a transparency and governance tool.

    That time when the judge at the corruption inquest tells you that you’re screwing up but you reply with “we made a powerpoint”

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    Until the ANC ditches the odious policy of cadre deployment, nothing can change. And it is obvious that Ramaphosa espouses it-he has endorsed it multiple times , by action and in speech by not denouncing it. His whole latest cabinet picks bears testimony to this. So sadly, until and if, the country votes this corrupt cabal out, we are stuck with a largely ineffective, morally indefensible, state

  • Gerhard Pretorius says:

    Rereading the comments related to the story, I searched and came accross an appropriate quote from Madiba that suggest a way forward for SA:”If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”
    – July 1993. Speaking to South Africa’s trade union congress. My submission is that the country has indeed reached this point. The ANC cannot self-correct and has reached the end of its product life cycle. Other than before everyone just need to pitch up at a voting station and vote according to his/her conscience.

    • Jairo Arrow says:

      I thought it was the Arch Tutu who said so. My memory is fading, sorry.

      “If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”

  • Jairo Arrow says:

    “ No minutes for the period 2012-2017 of the Kitchen Cabinet or Deployment Committee” is plagiarized straight from George Well. At least JZ is honest by refusing to go and lie before the Commission!

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