When he gave evidence on oath before the Zondo Commission, President Cyril Ramaphosa put up a spirited defence of the illegal and unconstitutional practice of cadre deployment by the ANC in the public administration, the state-owned enterprises and even the judiciary. His evidence pleading for the continuation of cadre deployment is on record.
When he made his final pre-election statement this week, he flatly contradicted himself by calling for merit-based appointments
It is highly likely that the pernicious practice of cadre deployment – in which smoke-filled back rooms at Luthuli House are the site of decision-making as to which loyal cadre’s hands will be on the “levers of power in society” are made – will not meet with the approval of the Zondo Commission.
There are aspects of the president’s current position that call for closer scrutiny. He says, this week, that “if we are to get the country back on track, we need people at the helm who are not only capable, experienced and qualified, but who are also honest and trustworthy”.
He remains silent on the ongoing opaque machinations of the ANC cadre deployment committees, which did not even keep minutes until 2017. Where, pray tell Mr President, is a political party with about a million members going to find within its ranks the capable, experienced and qualified persons of honest and trustworthy mien, to run a country of over 60 million people?
We need greater openness and engagement
Nothing has been done since 2017 (when the president passed the chairpersonship of the national cadre deployment committee to his deputy, DD Mabuza, post their Nasrec victories) to open the deliberations of these committees to public scrutiny. On the contrary, they remain as opaque as they ever were, as if the deployments are to be regarded as secrets in the battle for hegemonic control of all levers of power in society.
The State Capture Commission struggled to get access to minutes – so much for openness. No engagement with communities has taken place other than for the appointment of the chief prosecutor and the Chief Justice. The latter process has become a sad circus, with grossly unsuitable candidates shortlisted.
Without accountability on the part of elected representatives and public officials, whether at national, provincial or local government level, trust between the public and government is easily broken and difficult to regain.
The president should know, from long experience in politics, that the last thing on the minds of his elected cadres is accountability to the public. Accountability to party bosses, yes, but to the public? Conspicuously absent.
These recent utterances by the president can be contrasted with the evidence he gave at the Zondo Commission when he conceded that there was a need for transparency in the work of the ANC’s deployment committee. He insisted the committee’s key role was to make recommendations, and not to instruct.
The recommendations are invariably acted on because Luthuli House is regarded as the centre of power in the ANC. In the absence of minute-keeping, it is impossible to verify that the nature of the work of deployment committees is a mere recommendation.
The famous Vuyo Mlokoti case is evidence that the deployment committee in that matter felt free to overrule the democratic decision of the appointing authority, the Amathole District Municipality. Quite the opposite of what the president claims. Factionalism within the ANC would account for the overruling of the appointment of one cadre in favour of another. Merit appointments by the ANC or ANC-controlled bodies are so rare that they create news headlines, as occurred when André de Ruiter became CEO of Eskom.
The president has said that since coming to office in 2017, he had introduced transparency and professionalism in the committee and was now keeping minutes of meetings, unlike in the past.
But there is no evidence of transparency or of professionalism. If the committees concerned had any regard for the rule of law and the provisions of section 195(1)(h) of the Constitution (which requires good human resource management practices), they would disband in deference to the ruling in Mlokoti. This step should be taken on the grounds that their activities are illegal and unconstitutional, as was found, in binding terms, in Mlokoti’s case.
The fact that they march on to the sound of a different drum is proof of a lack of professionalism and an absence of a willingness on the part of the ANC to allow appointing authorities to just do their work.
It is impossible to draw sufficient talent from the pool of cadres available to the ANC, hence the breakdown in local and other government structures and the disarray in state-owned enterprises.
Either the president is stuck in the cadre deployment rut (as emerges from his evidence on oath in August), or he is all for merit-based appointments (apparent from his statement this week).
It can’t be both: so, which is it Mr President? DM