Cadre deployment — ANC’s holy grail comes under pressure just when they need it most
DA court victories over the issue of cadre deployment are about to bring the crucial issue into political focus all over again.
As a result of a court application by the DA, the ANC has been ordered to hand over to the DA the records of the meetings of its deployment committees going back to 2013. This would include the minutes of meetings, emails, WhatsApp messages and the CVs of the candidates under discussion.
While the judges have ruled the ANC must hand over the records, there are still likely to be many appeals. No surprise there – this issue goes to the heart of how we are governed. Still, it will be difficult to establish precisely the contribution of the ANC’s deployment committee to South Africa’s multiple woes. The role it plays may become even more complicated as we enter the phase of coalition governments.
While the DA has already won some of the court battles here, it may still fail to receive even a byte of information. The ANC will likely continue to fight against disclosure tooth and nail.
Also, it is not entirely clear if this information still exists. Certainly, it is possible that in fact few formal meetings were held, and that the minutes may have “disappeared”. Isolated messages without the full context may also not be that helpful to the DA.
However, as the DA’s Leon Schreiber points out, at no point in any of the court proceedings has the ANC claimed that the records do not exist. This simple fact may make it impossible for the ANC to now tell a court in any further proceedings that they do not exist.
That said, there is a huge arrow aimed almost at the heart of the ANC in this issue – the DA has said it is specifically interested in the actions of President Cyril Ramaphosa when he chaired the ANC’s deployment committee.
This committee has been chaired by the ANC’s deputy leader since 1994, which means that the meetings between 2012 and 2017 would have been under Ramaphosa’s control. For the DA, this would constitute proof that he played a role in State Capture.
This may also get to the heart of the real role that this committee plays. It would also reveal the true nature of how we are governed as it could demonstrate clearly and precisely who makes decisions and how those very same decisions were made.
For the moment, this is not at all clear.
For example, while opponents of the ANC may like to paint a picture of this committee as meeting in dark rooms, and literally making decisions about who gets appointed to positions such as judges, ambassadors and the boards of SOEs, it may not have that level of control.
First, the Constitution and the law give powers to officials to make those appointments. In some cases, it’s Cabinet Ministers, in others, Cabinet as a whole, or even the President himself.
These people are all likely to have their own agendas and to use their power of appointment to do that, even if this is in conflict with the deployment committee.
Some of these appointments are almost beyond politics by default.
For example, while the deployment committee could discuss judicial appointments as much as it likes, the Judicial Service Commission includes many people who are not from the ANC. Its meetings are in public. While it would be possible for all the ANC commissioners to work together, it could still be fairly difficult to make this happen.
Other dynamics come into play, too. For example, the JSC last year decided to recommend Judge Mandisa Maya for the position of Chief Justice. But President Cyril Ramaphosa decided to appoint Judge Raymond Zondo to the position instead.
Also, two of the most important positions in our society, the head of the NPA and the head of SARS, were both appointed after public interviews.
It would seem unlikely that the deployment committee played any role in this. And yet these positions are arguably more important than those of Cabinet Ministers.
The spectacular example of former president Jacob Zuma’s appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister in 2015 also shows that in some cases presidents and others were happy to appoint people without the ANC’s approval in any form.
However, from what has emerged in public view, normally from comments by ANC leaders, it is clear that it does have a huge impact.
The Zondo Commission
Former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan told the Zondo Commission that this system was dangerous because if the deployment committee was captured, then the entire government could be captured through the people deployed by it.
This is obviously true.
For example, some of the people appointed to Transnet during the Zuma era appear to have been deployed literally to loot. And it was well known that the person who ultimately became its CEO, Siyabonga Gama, was selected for the position by the deployment committee in 2011 despite a recommendation from a disciplinary panel that he be fired.
But there are also other versions of what the committee does. Zuma told the Zondo Commission in his testimony that the committee only made recommendations, and that it did not make appointments.
Of course, he may have had his own motives for making this point.
In the end, the Zondo Commission found that the deployment committee did have an impact, and did “recommend” appointments to positions in Cabinet, “the entire civil service from director upwards”, parastatals, educational institutions, ambassadorial appointments and other posts.
However, it still seems difficult to assess the impact the position of chair of this committee has.
For example, the history of the committee in this formation goes back to at least 1994 – Thabo Mbeki was in charge of the committee while Nelson Mandela was President. But it also means that Zuma chaired the committee during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, Kgalema Motlanthe chaired the committee during most of Zuma’s first term and Ramaphosa during his second. Then David Mabuza would have chaired the committee until last year’s ANC conference, which saw Paul Mashatile elected to the position of deputy leader of the ANC.
And yet there is not necessarily a discernible trend to the appointments made under different chairs.
This suggests that while the committee may have an impact, it is certainly not final.
And of course, would the chair of the deployment committee, or even the full committee itself, have been able to overrule a sitting president? This seems unlikely.
It may be useful to remember how contested all of these periods were, and how often the deputy leader of the ANC and the leader of the ANC were in conflict with each other. And surely in most of these cases, the person who was president got their way.
One of the most important findings by the Zondo Commission was that the way the ANC carries out cadre deployment is unconstitutional and illegal. This has led to calls for the party to change its system.
But Ramaphosa, and others in the party, have strongly defended the policy (despite Ramaphosa’s support of the policy and Zondo’s finding against it, Ramaphosa was happy to appoint Zondo Chief Justice). They say that any party in power would do what they do and that this is what political parties almost everywhere do.
While the ANC may wish to retain this power, appointments to government positions are likely to become even more contested in future because it is likely that it will have to share positions with other parties. One very effective way to form coalitions is to parcel out patronage and influence in the form of jobs in government.
This means that it may lose some of the power it currently has to influence appointments in government.
However, because of the nature of this power, the mere existence of the ANC’s deployment committee, as opaque as it may be, is likely to render it the subject of intense debate for as long as the party is in power. DM