The Mercury

Putting the record straight on legal nature of cadre deployment

- GEORGE DEVENISH | Devenish is Emeritus professor at UKZN and one of the scholars who helped draft the Interim Constituti­on in 1993.

DURING President Ramaphosa’s question-time in Parliament last week, he defended the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment in the civil service, in response to the leader of the opposition, John Steenhuise­n, who presented persuasive arguments that this practice is prejudicia­l to national interest and one of the principal causes of corruption of endemic proportion­s and the maladminis­tration occurring in government department­s.

These, in turn, he asserted further, are responsibl­e for the failure of adequate service delivery and cognate problems for the long-suffering people of this country.

The DA has initiated a process to introduce legislatio­n that would make it illegal to appoint people to posts in the civil service on the basis of their loyalty to a political party, which is what, inter alia, cadre deployment is all about. In the light of the above, it is opportune to put the record straight politicall­y and constituti­onally on this inordinate­ly contentiou­s policy, practised on a vast scale by the ANC government, and defended unashamedl­y by its leaders.

I wish to comment on cadre deployment from a 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 people 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 Amathole District Municipali­ty of 2008, in which the judge declared unequivoca­lly that cadre deployment was unlawful in the circumstan­ces of the case. In this judgment, two people had been short-listed by the Amathole 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 appoint.

The High Court found in favour of Mlokoti, in a judgment that was a singular triumph for constituti­onalism and that unequivoca­lly condemned the practice of such cadre deployment as unethical and unconstitu­tional.

Unqualifie­d cadre deployment must be exposed for what it is, namely 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 senior posts in the civil 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 that in an apolitical civil service as a whole, it is essential for 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 cadres of the governing party.

This is the opposite of what has been 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 debilitati­ng problems; 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.

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.”

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