Defend Truth


Cadre deployment ‘issue’ a huge red herring and is simply par for the course


Dr Seelan Naidoo is principal associate at Public Ethos Consulting. He holds a master's in Decision-making, Knowledge and Values from Stellenbosch University, and a PhD in Organisation Studies and Cultural Theory from the University of St Gallen. He is an associated researcher of the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. He writes in his personal capacity.

All political parties everywhere in the world deploy their supporters to serve in government in one way or another, and in both political and administrative roles.

This article is inspired by the need to dispense with pseudo-problems in our politics. These may be small victories of negation, but they do help to bring the real problems into the foreground.  

The charges against cadre deployment constitute a pseudo-problem that distracts from real problems — it is a red herring.  

Cadre deployment is when the supporters of a governing political party are employed in government. It is that simple to define and just as easy to measure and assess.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cadre deployment sends us headlong towards kakistocracy

The cadre deployment issue that has been raised so vociferously by the DA and other opposition parties is a red herring for the simple reason that all political parties everywhere in the world deploy their supporters to serve in government in one way or another, and in both political and administrative roles.

The staunchest party supporters, those with membership cards, are the main source of party deployees. Cadre deployment, in principle, is par for the course in all multi-party democracies.

For example, John Steenhuisen is a cadre of the DA who has been deployed to the political role of DA party leader, just as Cyril Ramaphosa has been deployed by the ANC to serve in the political role of President of the Republic of South Africa.

In addition to political deployments, the ANC no doubt also deploys its members in the public administration where it governs — as does the DA and EFF where they govern.

The Constitution deals with this matter. The most direct references are found in sections 197(1) and (3) of the Constitution:

“197(1): The public service must loyally execute the lawful policies of the government of the day.

“197(3): No employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause.”

My emphasis on the word “only” in 197(3) above indicates how important this word is to the meaning of this stipulation. It means that party membership may be considered but that it should not be the only criterion for employment (or rejection from employment) in the public service.

Nowhere does the Constitution render cadre deployment illegal in principle. How could it?

However, this does not mean that anything goes in the practice of cadre deployment. If the only criterion for deployment is party support, then such a deployment is unconstitutional.   

Hence the need for formal party processes to consider how this should happen in a way that helps parties to pursue their agenda. That is what political parties do.

The ANC, no doubt, has a range of internal party-political structures and processes that influence the policy and action of the government of South Africa at every level. Why should the deployment of its supporters to government be treated any differently from other political matters?

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC must hand over cadre deployment records after losing court appeal

It would be preposterous to claim that the DA, EFF and other parties do not also have internal processes for this purpose. And it would be worrying if they only used informal processes to deploy their cadres.

The easy way to dispense with this particular red herring is to run a simple test. Take all the governing parties audited and true membership lists and run these against the list of all public sector employees.

The intersection of the two lists constitutes cadre deployment.

This analysis could easily be done by the relevant Chapter 9 institutions to avoid a “show me yours and I’ll show you mine” stand-off between the ANC and the DA.

The data is at hand. And it is worth using in the hunt for political red herrings. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    The issue was never about deploying people from your own party or using supporters for internal political positions like your example about John Steenhuisen being a cadre of the DA when deployed as the DA party leader.
    Rather its about putting someone in a position they simply cannot fulfill due to lack of qualifications, skills or moral aptitude especially for our failing SOEs, but also clearly our social departments such as education, culture etc.
    It is about knowingly putting an inferior resource in a critical position just so you can control it. Now I will concede that all political parties probably are guilty of this conduct to a certain degree, but as we can clearly see and feel every day, the ANC has taken this to a completely different level, literally sacrificing the future of this country. This can no longer be disputed.

    • David Mitchley says:

      What the writer also seems to have missed is when we have 2 or 3 applicants for a position in the public service and applicant 1 gets the position purely because he/she is a paid up member of the ruling party.
      It doesn’t matter which party is in power, it is wrong.

    • Geoff Krige says:

      Exactly. Agree 100%

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    I struggle to understand the purpose of your article.

    ANC nepotism is patently obviously destroying South Africa for all its people.

    The overwhelming truth is that no country or system can survive the level of useless that is the ANC cadre deployment.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Ah shame, a total waste of an education

  • Robert Pegg says:

    The same system was used by the National Party during the apartheid years. People were excluded from positions in government and municipal service if they were not Afrikaans speaking National Party members.
    The system fell apart then and the same is happening now. Just a different regime failure.

  • Dr Know says:

    It is not illegal to deploy political cadres. Nor is it illegal to deploy idiots. But its the only choice when you have all these juicy vacancies and you only have idiots to fill them.

  • Malcolm Jaros says:

    To say that “Cadre deployment, in principle, is par for the course in all multi-party democracies” is obviously true of administrative appointees but completely misses the point that for functional technology and engineering industries managers and workers must have relevant education and training and pride in what they achieve, other simply seeking fatter salaries.

  • The principle for cadre deployment should not undermine the greater good of society and good governance. We have seen the benefit of getting a Cadre with qualifications, passion and commitment- minister Ramokgopa. The deployment should instil confidence in all citizens regardless of political affiliation. We should be seeing improved policymaking and implementation, accountability and consistent quality service delivery etc which will then boosts credibility of whatever party deployed that person in the first place.

    • Ben Harper says:


    • Niek Joubert says:

      Maybe. But so did De Ruyter until Mantashe insulted him. If De Ruyter did not expose the sabotage and corruption, would Ramakgopa have been aware of it? He is on record that within his first month in office, he confidently announced that the corruption, etc is negligible.

  • Geoff Krige says:

    This is not a red herring, it is a red flag! Sure, in most of the democratic world ruling parties favour their own people of choice. But there is cadre deployment, and then there is ANC CADRE DEPLOYMENT. In ANC CADRE DEPLOYMENT we have BBBEE which states that nobody else is allowed to employ their talented people of choice, but the ANC is allowed to employ their own untalented people of choice. We have state capture because the ANC only deploys people who can be manipulated to do as the ANC dictates. We have collapsing SOEs and Municipalities because competence does not seem to appear anywhere on the ANC job descriptions for senior positions. The problem is not cadre deployment as such, it is the special brand of ANC CADRE DEPLOYMENT we have in South Africa

  • Sean Hammon says:

    So the argument is: “What wrong with cadre deployment? Everybody does it.”
    The issue is that incompetent, inept, corrupt, greedy, thieving, lying, lazy, unqualified cadres get deployed to posts they should never get a sniff at. And then these same merit-less scheisters getting defended to the hilt by their blindly loyal corrupt ANC comrades.
    How old is Seelan? Has he just learnt to read? He shouldn’t stop yet.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    This is the standard of writing and comprehension of a PhD? He sounds like an ANC cadre deployed.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Sounds like this bloke is a cadaver, sorry cadre, deployment himself! Someone who apparently has a PhD from Switzerland, which from the rubbish he writes – much like that stupid NDZ woman, who I still want to ask Bristol University how they could give her a medical degree when she can hardly speak English and is as thick as a brick – if he’s a proper academic, should be able to give a reasoned argument, not an obviously biased political one, and makes me wonder if St Gallen gave him a doctorate to get rid of him! He is a disgrace to academia.

  • David Bristow says:

    With thinkers (sic) like Dr Naidoo teaching our future leaders, we are in deep trouble. Putting receptionists in charge of large local government organisations is not “par for the course”!

  • Michael Evans says:

    This article so misses the point it is hardly worth commenting on. But just to point out one obvious, but very significant error. The author contends that cadre deployment is lawful. Yet the High Court in the case of Mlokoti v Amathole District Municipality and Another (2009) ruled it to be unlawful. And that was endorsed by Chief Justice Zondo in the Zondo Commission Report, who said that cadre deployment violates section 195 of the Constitution (not section 197 as referred to by the author) which stipulates that appointments in the public service must be based on “ability, objectivity (and) fairness”. It is cadre deployment which has triggered much of the corruption and most of the ineptitude which characterises so much of our government at all three levels, and many of the state-owned enterprises.

  • Vas K says:

    Dr. Naidoo must have sent his contribution to DM from another planet. Otherwise he could not ignore the fact that whilst he describes a utopian cadre deployment system, the reality in South Africa is a catastrophic cadre deployment system: find the laziest, most inapt and dishonest ANC bootlicking moron in the country and deploy him / her in a position where he / she can do the maximum damage.

  • Hugh Kennedy says:

    This ivory tower dweller has obviously never lived in a functioning democracy. There is a difference between deploying political appointees to executive functions and the ANC’s stated goal of seizing all levers of power and making it impossible for a democratic transition. Also, some competence is normally required in deployees, not only blind fealty

  • Rudd van Deventer says:

    Really, cadre deployment is nothing new. I will give him that. What is missing is responsibility and consequences, once deployed they live a charmed life and cannot be displaced.
    Shallow thinking undeserving of a bachelor degree, never mind a PhD. He should ask for his money back from the college that awarded it to him.

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