Cadre deployment akin to apartheid: loyalty trumps merit
DURING President Ramaphosa’s question-time in Parliament last week he defended in general the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment in the public service.
He was responding to the leader of the opposition, John Steenhuisen, who eloquently presented persuasive arguments that this practice is disastrously prejudicial to the national interest – and one of the principal causes for corruption of endemic proportions and the maladministration in government departments. These, in turn, he asserted, are also behind the failure of adequate service delivery and cognate problems for the long-suffering people of this country.
Furthermore, the DA has initiated a process to introduce legislation that would make it illegal to appoint persons to posts in the public service on the basis of their loyalty to a political party, which is what, inter alia, cadre deployment is really all about.
In light of the above it is opportune to put the record straight both politically and constitutionally on this inordinately contentious policy, practised on a vast scale by the ANC government, and defended unashamedly by its leaders.
In this regard I wish to comment on cadre deployment from an essentially legal and jurisprudential viewpoint.
It is cogently submitted that commitment and compliance with the value of non-racialism, which is clearly set out in section 1 of the Constitution is in practice incompatible with the widely and indiscriminately employed practice of cadre deployment, used by the ANC administration.
The practice of cadre deployment whereby persons who are card carrying members of the ANC, have been appointed to positions in the public service – regardless of their competence – is in most cases unconstitutional and unlawful.
This was held to be the position in a noteworthy case in an Eastern Cape High
Court judgment in Mlokoti v Amatole District Municipality of 2008, in which the judge declared unequivocally that cadre deployment was indeed unlawful in the circumstances of the case. In this judgment two people had been shortlisted by the Amatole District Municipality for the post of municipal manager.
A selection panel found Vuyo Mlokoti to be the stronger candidate and furthermore the municipality’s recruitment policy required that appointments be fair and merit-based.
Nevertheless, Mlokoti was overlooked and his weaker rival, Mlami Zenzile, a political cadre, was appointed to the post.
This appointment flowed from the instructions of the ANC’s regional executive committee, which told ANC members of the district council who to vote for.
The High Court found in favour of Mlokoti.
The judgment was a singular triumph for constitutionalism and unequivocally condemned the practice of such cadre deployment as unethical and unconstitutional.
Unqualified cadre deployment in general must be exposed for what it actually is –– unfair and unlawful discrimination.
In effect, it is akin to apartheid in most cases, in the manner in which it operates in relation to those who are not card-carrying members of the ANC, or who are not intimately connected to the ANC.
It is conceded that in a limited number of very senior posts in the public service, as occurs in other democracies, such as in Washington and Westminster, where a particular position may justify the appointment of a person whose views are aligned to the governing administration, it is acceptable and legitimate.
It is, however, very much the exception to the rule. In an apolitical public service as a whole, it is essential that those appointed to serve the government of the day with commitment and competence, should first and foremost have the necessary qualifications, and not be merely be cadres of the governing party.
This is the very opposite of what has and is still occurring in South Africa since 1994, particularly under the Zuma ANC administration, where cadre deployment became so widespread – and has resulted in large numbers of incompetent people being appointed to positions for which they had neither the experience nor qualifications – and has facilitated maladministration and endemic corruption.
This has also resulted in other very debilitating problems, particularly in the sphere of local governing, where in relation to service delivery there have been widespread political protests, some of which have become violent and politically destabilising.
Large-scale cadre deployment must inevitably lead to the politicisation of the public service and a decline in competence and commitment, as manifestly occurred exponentially under the Zuma administration.
It is submitted that it is unbelievably disappointing that Ramaphosa, with his promised “new dawn” has now defended this pernicious policy and practice.
His administration should be taking the exact opposite approach by adopting decisive measures to put an end to such practice in the interest of honest and competent government.
It should be doing so by both word of mouth and conduct and thereby reinstate non-racialism and professionalism in its philosophy and practice of governance, as Mandela endeavoured to do.
The astonishing problems that our country is confronted with, as have been so transparently exposed by virtue of the credible evidence presented on state capture at the Zondo Commission, are inextricably connected to cadre deployment.
A paradigmatic change is required in this regard. This is a profound challenge to the leadership and the people of this country if we are to become a successful operating democracy and in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution “heal the divisions of the past …” and in terms of its section 195 promote the principles of “professional ethics … efficient, economic and effective use of resources”.