South Africa


The ANC government – not cadre deployment – is at the crux of SA’s corruption cancer

The ANC government – not cadre deployment – is at the crux of SA’s corruption cancer
Illustrative image | The Constitutional Court. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla) | President Cyril Ramaphosa receives the fifth and final Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State Report at the Union Buildings on 22 June from Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

The ConCourt decision to reject the ANC’s bid to overturn an order for it to hand over all records of its cadre deployment committee is a victory for openness and transparency. But the ANC’s formal cadre deployment policy is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture had much to say about the ANC’s cadre deployment policy, having identified it as one of the main causes of “State Capture”. Pointing out that the stated goal of the policy was to “deepen the hold of the liberation movement over the levers of the state”, the commission argued that the policy was unconstitutional and illegal.

The commission based its view in part on the fact that the policy identified “key centres of authority” to which cadres had to be deployed, arguing that control of these centres of authority helped to facilitate “State Capture”.

It is worth recalling that the “key centres of authority” identified by the policy included: “the Cabinet, the entire civil service (but most importantly from director level upwards), premiers and provincial administrations, legislatures, local government, parastatals, education institutions, independent statutory commissions, agencies, boards and institutes, ambassadorial appointments, and international organisations and institutions.”


I worry that the commission may have misdiagnosed the problem, focusing too narrowly on the problem of “State Capture”, and thus failing to recognise that corruption has become completely entrenched in the ANC and goes far beyond instances of “State Capture”. I also worry that the judgment in which the court ordered the ANC to hand over information about the functioning of its deployment committee may have little practical effect.

To start with, it is unclear whether the court order will yield any new information about the implementation of the ANC’s cadre deployment policy as the ANC had previously told the Zondo Commission that there were no minutes for the deployment committee for the period between 2012 to 2017. This conveniently happens to be the period when Cyril Ramaphosa chaired the committee in his capacity as Deputy President of the ANC.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC given five days to release contentious cadre deployment records to DA

But even if it does yield new information, and even if it ultimately leads to a court invalidating the policy, I am not optimistic that it will have a dramatic effect on curbing unlawful, nepotistic, patronage-driven appointments to “key centres of authority”, as some opposition politicians and some commentators seem to believe.

To the extent that cadre deployment (in the broadest sense) has become a tool to facilitate ANC corruption at every level of society, it is likely to continue for as long as the ANC remains in government at the local, provincial and national level, even in the absence of a formal policy.

‘Cadre deployment’ means different things 

Part of the problem may be that “cadre deployment” means different things to different people and may therefore be far too vague a term to be useful in analysing the problem and finding solutions for it.

As I have written before, some forms of “cadre deployment” are probably perfectly legal and could be expected from even the most honest and efficient government. For example, it would be difficult to argue that it is unlawful for a political party to select their preferred candidates for president, premier, mayor or speaker. Similarly, it would be perfectly lawful for a party in government to support (and use their political power to try and secure) the appointment of qualified party loyalists to bodies that formulate or implement government policies.

On the other hand, it is clear that a deployment policy that seeks to appoint and promote all members of the public service purely based on their loyalty to the ANC (or one of the factions within the ANC) would be unconstitutional and invalid. This would be so, not least because section 197(3) of the Constitution states that no “employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause”.

This is qualified by section 195(4) of the Constitution which permits the “appointment in public administration of a number of persons on policy considerations” if this is done in accordance with national legislation.

Insulation impossible

The second problem, flowing from the first, is that it is impossible (and in some cases undesirable) to completely insulate appointments to the public administration and other state institutions from political influence.

For example, if the ANC decides to support the appointment of candidate X as a Commissioner to the South African Human Rights Commission, the ANC would be able to use its current majority in the National Assembly (NA) to secure the nomination of the ANC’s preferred candidate. 

It is the fact that it has become evident over the years, as made crystal clear by the various reports of the Zondo Commission, that the ANC in government cannot be trusted to make decisions that will enhance or ensure continued good governance.

Unless the Constitution is amended to bestow the power to nominate members of Chapter 9 bodies on an independent body instead of on the NA, or unless the ANC loses its majority in the NA, there is pretty much nothing stopping the ANC from “deploying” X to the SAHRC, whether this is done in terms of a deployment policy or is based on an ad hoc decision of party leaders.

Similarly, where, for example, the power to nominate or appoint board members of a state-owned enterprise (SOE) is bestowed on the relevant minister, nothing would stop that minister from “deploying” ANC loyalists to that board. As long as the appointments are sound and the board does its job as required, this should not be a problem.

In fact, as the minister and the government he or she serves in are ultimately responsible and accountable for the performance of that SOE (something, the ANC often pretends is not the case), one could even argue that it is appropriate that the minister should have the final say on such appointments. (Different considerations apply to boards of supposedly independent or impartial bodies such as the SABC Board.)

The real problem

Which brings me to the crux of the matter.

In my view, cadre deployment in the abstract is not the problem. The problem is that corruption and nepotism have become the central purpose of the ANC in government, and one of the pivotal mechanisms through which it secures its survival as a political party.

One result of this development is that many appointments, whether approved or mandated by the ANC deployment committee or not, are made to facilitate corruption. Senior civil servants loyal to some or other politician are appointed because of their loyalties to that politician or more broadly the ANC, often in the knowledge that they will serve on tender boards or exercise other powers that will open up possibilities for the corrupt extraction of resources from the state.

The problem becomes even more severe when the appointee lacks the basic skills and qualifications to do their job. (Politicians implicated in tender corruption often defend themselves by pointing out that they themselves did not serve on the tender committee, when they have that tender committee in their pocket.)

Read more in Daily Maverick: State of contradictions — SA’s 2024 political tugs-of-war, and the SAPS’s ‘fight vs fuel’ crime and corruption conundrum

The need for politicians at every level of government to disburse patronage in order to buy loyalty and boost their standing and power in local or regional ANC structures has also led to the profound weakening of the state, with the appointment of unqualified or incompetent individuals to some positions in SOEs and the public administration, even to positions with little or no political influence. The abolition of the ANC’s cadre deployment policy will not change any of this.

Some excellent exceptions

Of course, some ANC politicians and some ANC-controlled administrations and bodies also sometimes appoint excellent, highly skilled and impeccably honest persons to positions at all levels of government. (The appointment of the current SA Revenue Service Commissioner appears to be such a case.) Such appointments are sometimes made with the blessing of the deployment committee or at least taking into account the individual’s pro-ANC sympathies.

I would argue that this underscores my point that the heart of the problem is neither the ANC’s formal “cadre deployment” policy nor the informal political influence of ANC politicians and ANC-aligned officials on some appointments. 

It is the fact that it has become evident over the years, as made crystal clear by the various reports of the Zondo Commission, that the ANC in government cannot be trusted to make decisions that will enhance or ensure continued good governance.

It’s not the policy (or not only the policy) that is the problem, it is the party and the people elected to govern all of us that is the problem. As the ANC has demonstrated over the past five years that it is incapable or renewing itself (as illustrated by its failure to take decisive action against almost 100 of its members implicated in wrongdoing by the State Capture Commission), it is ultimately the voters (not the courts) who have real power to do something about the problem.

Whether voters will use this power is anyone’s guess. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Corbett says:

    Absolutely correct. The practice of appointing friends, comrades, family, etc either formally or informally permeates the entire organisation right down to the smallest town Council. Sometimes, maybe frequently, the purpose is corrupt extraction. But often it’s simply to fill a position with an acceptable person regardless of the requirements of the job. The cost of incompetence is likely higher than corrupt extraction of resources. Further, “ make work” to provide incomes for the chosen has led to hugely inflated payrolls. If the latest polls are accurate the ANC will lose its absolute majority but some party will need to be willing to form a coalition with it. Only the MPC has the integrity to have some hope of diverting the ANC from its current practices. Let’s hope that the needs of the Country will determine this decision.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Brilliant summary, Pierre, and puts the responsibility with the voter so clearly; that we only get what we vote for. If we vote ANC then it’s a lot more of the same, corrupt, authoritarian, incompetence and God help us! How loud does one have to say this to be heard?

  • Titus Khoza says:

    Mmm, except for the overly sweeping generalisation/s, (well, he has to do that of course, or or the the angle effect wont work), the point is well illustrated and it has some plausible merit to.
    ANC take heed!
    I cant over emphasise this!

  • Denise Smit says:

    Thanks for this. The cadre deployment policy is the vessel allowing it to stay in power for ever

  • ST ST says:

    Completely agree. I think you summed it up nicely Pierre. As far as what voters will do…I think those with access to the true nature of the current ANC have already exited…where to go is unclear for most. Opposition has not seized so many moments in signing up the lost voters. As DM’s David Everett’s citation (from Antonio Gramsci) stated “the old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born”.

    • BT Ohlange says:

      In North West, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Free State, the ANC’s votes in 2019 were about half (!) of what they were in 1994. COPE in ’09 and EFF after didn’t capture all of those.

      There are many disillusioned ANC supporters who diagnosed what it was early on, but they have never found a place to call home after the ANC.

  • Bryan Macpherson says:

    This is so true – the ANC is like the head of a corrupt octopus with the cadres merely the tentacles seeking out their ill-gotten gains. Corrupt from the head down.

  • Raymond Ndlovu says:

    In the end, everything boils down to values and organisational culture. Those are defined, inculcated and demonstrated by the leadership, consistently over time. If the centre does not hold, all else will fail.

  • Wayne Gabb says:

    I fully agree with your sentiments, however, do believe having the court judgements on record are part of the journey to clean up governance. You get what you vote for and ultimately the voters are the ones that count and a few taxpayers!!

  • Bob Fraser says:

    Bob is F. 14th February 2024 07:43
    Cadre appointment will always be a problem no matter which party is in
    power but the courts should have the power to investigate all such appointments and reverse them where necessary and have whoever made such an appointment removed from any position where he or she can again do anything so stupid.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    In another article today iro Transnet appointments, it is reported that the delays are coming from the ANC Deployment Committee who wan the new CEO to be a Buthulezi who left, with a payoff, after being suspended for apparent dishonesty…..the preferred candidate by the Transnet Board, such as it is, is a well experienced coloured female.

  • Sergei Rostov says:

    A fine piece, but with an important error. The Commissioner of SARS was not appointed at the behest of ANC politicians or the party. He was appointed on the recommendation of an independent panel, which evaluated candidates for their competence, integrity and absence of political loyalties. It shows what can occur when persons are appointed to high public office on the basis of their commitment to the principles of the Constitution and the welfare of the people of South Africa, and not for their loyalty to the ANC.

  • Confucious Says says:

    As 1+2=3 in any permutation, so does cadre deployment+ corruption = anc!

  • Assuming we have a miracle and the anc are voted out, the real problem starts then, how do we get rid of the gangsters in these positions. Need to replace almost the entire civil service, not cheap or easy to replace, endless appeals and court cases await us. Cannot see them meekly surrendering their troughs.

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    Thank you very much, Professor de Vos, for an excellent article on a critical topic. I certainly agree that the ANC is irredeemably corrupt and that is the fundamental problem. Cadre deployment, informal political influence, and the abdication by the ANC in Parliament of Parliament’s responsibility of exercising oversight are the means by which the poison spreads through the system, which are key elements that Justice Zondo highlighted in the State Capture Report. It is clear that state capture has not ended at all, it is still continuing. All weaknesses in the governance system have been very effectively exploited.

    There needs to be a multi-pronged approach to vanquish the Hydra. Strengthening the implementation of section 197 of the Constitution is critical, and prohibiting cadre deployment is essential, even if it would not be perfect, as rightly pointed out. The Public Service Commission should be significantly strengthened as a body to interrogate key appointments, instead of Parliament, as Parliament has devolved into a circus.

    Mechanisms need to be put in place for civil society to hold Parliament to account for failures to exercise proper oversight. Key appointments should be subject to independent oversight, as Justice Zondo highlighted.

    Voting is critical, but it cannot be relied upon solely, as polling indicates that the ANC are not likely to be completely removed from government. And other parties advocate similar attitudes that promoted state capture.

  • drew barrimore says:

    Spot on Mr De Vos. The entire ANC operation is a Mafia-based cauldron of blind loyalty and reward. It is identical to Putin’s Russia.

  • John Strydom says:

    Thank you for this clarification.
    In other countries this seems to have been a commonplace practice for centuries.
    However, when the incumbent does not have the qualifications and skills to do the job we get the mess we are in.

  • Donald Knight says:

    Spot on, Pierre!

  • Just Me says:

    Of course corruption and cadre deployment are inter-linked, but they are both cANCer’s policies.

    SA has an ANC problem and there is no redemption for the ANC after stooping so terribly low.

  • N SP says:

    I accept Pierre’s analysis. Question is, what, under a proportional electoral system, can be done to prevent any future government, doing the same?

  • Maria Zinsser says:

    Come people, let’s vote the ANC out of government!!

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    The ANC is simply a pyramid scheme for the political elite who couldn’t hope to make the kind of money they do in the private sector, in a proper job (as opposed to the ACME Inc shelf companies that pollute our system). For example – would Fikile Mbalula have been able to get a job earning R2m+ a year in private enterprise. No. Absolutely not, ever. I doubt he’d be able to get beyond a junior clerical position, earning 10% to 15% of what he earned as a Minister. Ditto Cele, Mantashe and a swathe of others. And it goes from the Presidency down to the smallest village, over and again.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    “The ANC government – not cadre deployment – is at the crux of SA’s corruption cancer”

    Not even close. It’s the people who’ve hired them repeatedly for 30 years. The ANC is a symptom of what happens when democracy is utterly wasted on it’s intended beneficiaries.

  • Flapster Karos says:

    Uncle Gwedy made it clear that cadre deployment will continue as this is the tool most effective for the government’s transformation journey. Even if the Anc is voted out of power and out of government, the appointed cadres in every sector of government will continue with what they do, good or bad. The Anc is steadfast in its belief that it will remain in power. This madness may never end. Kudos to Pierre for pointing this out. We the voters are the change.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Regardless of the accuracy of the message, this article smacks of potayto potahto to me.

    It it clear to any sentient being that the ANC is useless, corrupt, and destructive, and that they must go micro analysis of semantics changes nothing.

    KISS (keep it simple stupid) is what we all need in the murk.

    For me, there is one message and one message only that must be pushed until all our people literally vomit on it.

    Regardless of your race, religion or gender, if you want to give yourself, your family, your loved ones, and your country the best chance at a safe productive future, there is only one sensible choice you must make: vote DA.

    It is literally that simple.

  • John Field says:

    Is not this behaviour common globally ??

  • Amadeus Figaro says:

    There is something that the analysts fail to get. It is that the majority of the electorate supports cadre deployment or do not care about it. And that South Africa operates under the law of unintended but utterly predictable consequences.

    The majority of SA’s divided electorate blames its “enemies” not the ANC for all the failures.

    The tendency to dissociate negative policy outcomes of popular policies from the policies is clearly ignored.

  • beadlesd2 says:

    I really wish these true words could be translated and published in all 11 of SA’s official languages, so that the majority of the voters in SA can get this message.
    Otherwise there will never be a meaningful change.
    The c BBC ast majority of the voters in SA can’t fully comprehend the English narrative.
    Sad but true.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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