The truth about the noxious practice of cadre deployment in the public administration of South Africa and in our state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is more nuanced than it is made out to be by UWC academic Dr Seelan Naidoo in his Daily Maverick article of 17 October 2023, “Cadre deployment ‘issue’ a huge red herring and is simply par for the course”.
In the constitutional set-up in place in South Africa since the 1994 transition to multi-party democracy under the rule of law, there can be no quibble with cadre deployments in political parties. The freedom of association they all enjoy entitles them to decide, on the basis of party loyalty, who should be allowed to stand for election to any position from president down to ward councillor in all three spheres of government.
If the ANC chooses to organise itself along military lines for the purpose of finding the right cadres for deployment to political office, that is its right as long as it is done within the confines of constitutionalism. Political parties are not the state and can accordingly make up their own rules and practices for party political purposes.
So, for example, no political party can nominate for election a person disqualified from eligibility by the provisions of Section 47 (1) of the Constitution. It does not countenance the election of most civil servants, unrehabilitated insolvents, those declared to be of unsound mind by our courts, and convicts who have been sentenced to more than a year in prison without the option of a fine, among others.
Such a nomination would be inconsistent with the Constitution and accordingly invalid under Section 2. That is why, for example, Tony Yengeni did not return to Parliament after his conviction on Arms Deal related charges.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Arms Deal Report: More prevarication, less truth, no justice
Civil service and SOE destruction
Political office is not where the shoe of cadre deployment pinches. It is in the realms of the public administration and SOEs that the toxicity of cadre deployment manifests itself.
According to Section 195 of the Constitution, the basic principles and values governing public administration include two principles that are currently all too often honoured in the breach to the detriment of the well-being of the general population of SA:
- “Good human-resource management and career development practices, to maximise human potential must be cultivated”; and
- “Public administration must be broadly representative of the South African people, with employment and personnel management practices based on ability, objectivity, fairness, and the need to redress the imbalances of the past to achieve broad representation.”
These principles apply to administration in every sphere of government, organs of state and SOEs.
Using the pool of talent that may be available within the ranks of any particular political party as the sole source of human resources to run the country has brought South Africa to the brink of failure as a state. It can never be “fair” to choose those who have the necessary “ability” from the tiny pool of ANC members, around one million strong, to run a country of 62 million.
It is due to cadre deployments that Eskom is unable to supply sufficient electricity to meet the needs of the people of South Africa, and SAA and three other airlines are defunct (Dudu Myeni was a pre-primary school teacher before she rose to chair SAA).
Abysmal service delivery
Our ability to deliver services of the kind contemplated by the Bill of Rights has been severely jeopardised by cadre deployments, so much so that the supply of water, education, healthcare and municipal services are all under extreme pressure. Deploying Bheki Cele to be police commissioner and Menzi Simelane to lead the NPA has left our criminal justice administration in tatters.
There is another fundamental difficulty with ANC-style cadre deployment: the cadres are all required to be loyal to the National Democratic Revolution punted by the ANC and its allies, as well as by the EFF. The NDR is fundamentally at odds with the Constitution. This simple fact makes it extremely difficult for the cadres to “loyally execute the lawful policies of the government of the day” as they are obliged to do by the Constitution but not by the NDR.
Cadre deployment is no way in which to achieve the “efficient, economic and effective use of resources” if human resources are to be regarded as a resource that is subject to the principles and values set out in Section 195.
Indeed, Section 195(1)(b) requires that efficiency and effectiveness be promoted. After 30 years of trying cadre deployment as the means of achieving these most desirable goals, it ought to be plain to any objective observer that cadre deployment in the SOEs and public administration is not working.
NDR vs the Constitution
The differences between the goals of the NDR and the Constitution have been discussed previously and need not be repeated here.
The courts have been the theatre of war between the NDR and the Constitution with many laws, policies and practices of the ANC being struck down for their inconsistency with constitutional values. Deployed cadres like Manyi, Simelane and Abrahams have all departed prematurely from their posts due to the conflict of interest inherent in their loyalty to the NDR and their duty to uphold the Constitution.
The legality of using cadre deployment committees to appoint public servants has been tested in court and found wanting. The well-known decision of the high court in Mlokoti v Amathole District Municipality is instructive. The position of municipal manager was vacant; Mlokoti was the best candidate but the ANC’s relevant cadre deployment committee did not want a PAC member in the position and insisted on a cadre deployment. Mlokoti took the decision on judicial review and it was reversed by the court by nullifying the cadre deployment and replacing the cadre with Mlokoti.
The basis upon which the court did so was that cadre deployment of the municipal manager favoured by the ANC fell foul of the requirements of Section 195 as discussed above.
The ANC chose not to appeal the decision and it remains good law. Instead, the ANC stoutly contends that its cadre deployment committees do not usurp the functions of the state in appointing public servants and SOE functionaries. A “recommendation” from the ANC is made, not an appointment. Nobody really believes this contrived explanation for the continuation of a practice struck down as illegal in Mlokoti’s case.
The evidence at the Zondo Commission suggests that the “recommendations” are of the binding variety, extending to the appointment of judges, a truly scandalous revelation of the depravity of seeking hegemonic control of all the levers of power in society.
The Constitution frowns upon hegemonic control: it posits the rule of law, the doctrine of the separation of powers and the use of checks and balances on the exercise of power. It has six Chapter Nine Institutions to bed down constitutionalism in SA.
All of these binding requirements of the law are undermined by cadre deployment in the public administration and SOEs. Cadre deployment has not been a success and should be abandoned along with the NDR.
Fortunately, judgment is awaited in the DA’s application to the high court to have cadre deployment declared illegal. The outcome of that case will bring to an end the debates about the practice.
In the meantime, and while the case wends its way through the likely appeals, it is prudent to bring a little more nuance to bear. DM