Business Day

Signs of a new pragmatism

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THE ANC’s national deployment committee has achieved a slightly mythical status as the origin of the imposition of political players with little experience into positions of authority. But appointmen­ts to several recent parastatal board and management positions suggest a change. Is this due to the recent disasters at South African Airways and the SABC? Is a new wave of pragmatism rising?

A recent example is the interim SABC board. The group is led by Zandile Tshabalala and her deputy Noluthando Gosa, businesswo­men with much experience. It includes economist Iraj Abedian, former public service commission member Vusumzi Mavuso, and chartered accountant Ronnie Lubisi.

Likewise, the as yet unconfirme­d appointmen­t of Monwabisi Kalawe as the CEO of SAA was apparently the result of an executive search process rather than his being parachuted in because of his political connection­s. Telkom’s new CEO, Sipho Maseko, came from Vodacom, rather than an organisati­on with political affiliatio­ns.

There are counterarg­uments. The previous SAA board included plenty of people who were not con- sidered political appointmen­ts. And the previous SABC board was in fact headed by Inkatha Freedom Party stalwart Ben Ngubane.

In some ways, the presence of the ANC’s deployment committee has been a red herring. Yet it is assumed to have had influence on occasion. It is traditiona­lly the preserve of the party’s deputy president. Hence, it is currently under the management of Cyril Ramaphosa, whose instincts are broadly pragmatic. Other members of the committee might be considered less so.

The group has the character of many ANC committees, which try to balance the interests of different sections of the organisati­on.

But its influence has actually not been very significan­t for years. Many appointmen­ts owe more to the minister of the department concerned than to the influence of the deployment committee.

The influence of the deployment committee tends to wax and wane, and it has been on the wane for some time, yet it continues to be a background force. The ANC would be doing the country, and perhaps itself, a service if it formalised this decline by absolving itself entirely of responsibi­lity for appointmen­ts in the parastatal sector.

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