Death-knell for jobs for the boys
AN UNEXPECTED but potentially lethal spanner has been thrown into the ANC’s policy of deploying party cadres into senior public service posts as well as to positions in the constitutional institutions that guard against the abuse of ruling party power. The Eastern Cape High Court has declared the practice illegal.
As a result, the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CFCR) is on a mission to see that ruling is indeed the death knell for the practice. It’s asked the Human Rights Commission (HRC), as well as the Public Protector, to take action. CFCR director Nikki de Havilland says the centre will take the matter further if the HRC and Public Service Commission don’t.
Judge Jeremy Pickering’s ruling could cause some severe headaches for the ANC by possibly opening up the potential for a raft of court challenges against bureaucrat appointments. The judgment has, of course, also come just as the new ANC leader- ship prepares to “make sure the right people are in the right jobs” in the public service.
It’ll be telling indeed to see which State mandarins are replaced and who replaces them after the upcoming election. While the ANC wasn’t available for comment on the Pickering judgment – or to indicate for that matter whether it intends appealing it – De Havilland says: “There was nothing ambiguous about the judgment. The bottom line is that there should be no executive interference in the appointment of public servants. This practice is a complete breach of the separation of powers and no ruling party should be making appointments in the public service.”
Pickering declared political deployments illegal in the case in which Voyu Mlokoti took the Amathole District Municipality to court when he was overlooked for the position of municipal manager. In an assessment of his relative strengths and weaknesses compared with the other short-listed candidate, Mlamli Zenzile, Mlokoti was found to be the better candidate by an 11-member representative selection panel. Despite this and despite two legal opinions cautioning the municipality not to appoint Zenzile, he was appointed. The ANC regional leadership had instructed the council to appoint him.
The court overturned the appointment, arguing it had contravened municipal recruitment policy that demanded municipal managers be selected objectively and on merit and that individuals had to be recruited to positions on the basis of qualifications and suitability.
Commenting on the involvement of the regional executive council of the ANC, the court had the following to say: “It’s clear that the councillors of the ANC supinely abdicated to their political party their responsibility to fill the position.”
Pickering conceded that although it’s accepted practice for the executive to approve senior appointments within the public service, the actual recruitment and appointment of public servants must be non-party political, as set out in SA’s Constitution and labour laws.