President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency/ANA
By Bheki Ntshalintshali
The debate around the constitutionality and overall usefulness of the cadre deployment policy is raging in the country in the face of corruption scandals and collapsing state institutions because of mismanagement.
This debate seems to intrigue and excite mainly those who have less integrity when it comes to democratic governance.
It’s a fraudulent and disingenuous debate in the first place.
All appointments, including political appointments, in the public service are prescribed to be on merit, which means that incumbents must have relevant academic qualifications and experience as the only requirements of their suitability and capabilities, in addition to the transformatory imperatives.
The Public Service Act prescribes for such, in our democratic order, which marks a vast difference with the Apartheid public service.
It is a false debate because it conflates two aspects that are not about cadre deployment.
Firstly, despite the relevant qualifications and experience, the incumbent might turn out to be incapable or incompetent.
It is therefore dishonest to ascribe poor performance to cadre deployment as this does happen in any sphere of life, including in the private sector.
Secondly, in any democratic society in which political parties contest for political power, it would be outrageous to contest elections for its own sake; without any intention to effect the mandate derived from the electorate.
When a party is in government, ipso facto, it would have its cadres in responsible positions to the extent permissible by the law, especially in the domains of political appointments.
It may be that others with a different political culture use a different terminology, in the place of the cadre.
In countries such as the USA, even members of the judiciary are politically appointed, and such is a long history of this practice that the shortcomings of the judges are never ascribed to their political appointment.
Therefore, if the intention is to succeed in effecting electoral mandate, a political party would ensure that those who would be appointed ,at least ,would be presumably and demonstrably capable, which means that they would have all the necessary requirements according to the law and some more.
In a country where there were two main camps in the apartheid war, it was inherent in the transitional process that those who were part of the democratic forces would occupy the new institutions arising from the democratic constitution such as the Constitutional Court, the Public Protector,and so on. Even positions such as directors of departments and agencies were always likely to be occupied by the ranks of the democratic forces having gained the mandate from the historic elections.
But such was the nature of our transition that some of the responsible positions in the new democratic state were still occupied by those who spent their careers pursuing the opposite agenda, an icon of which was Chris Stals. But this was pervasive as included in this category were also judges who rose through the ranks by demonstrating their capabilities in terms of the Apartheid jurisprudence.
Truly being in power means the ability to use access to state power to drive an agenda of social change and implementing your agenda. In South Africa, there is still a disjuncture between the deployment of key cadres to erstwhile apartheid institutions such as parastatals and the everyday conduct of these institutions.
There is a distinction between being in office and being in power, we still see leaders occupying positions of power, but surrounded by the reality of the continued existence of centres of power dominated by the old order.
Workers in South Africa still believe that the democratic movement has only changed the complexion of state institutions while their orientation has remained intact. Eskom is still being accused of favouring white companies when it comes to awarding contracts.
In fact, the biggest failure of the cadre deployment policy has been its failure to stop the counter agenda from being imposed. The democratic movement seriously underestimated the determination and degree of organisation by the forces opposed to the National Democratic Revolution.
Since 1994, the ANC through its successive governments has been attempting to transform the South African society in an environment where the power of the apartheid ruling bloc was largely entrenched in sections of society, such as the bureaucracy, the security establishment, the judiciary, and the commanding heights of the economy.
Sadly, some powerful forces locally and internationally have been and continue to engage in a series of manoeuvres, some coordinated and some disconnected, which collectively represented a counter offensive aimed at redirecting the path of South Africa’s democratic transition.
The problem of corruption goes beyond cadre deployment, the South African private sector is a cesspool of corruption and unethical behaviour. Cartel behaviour and price gouging are uniquely private sector problems.
There is a need to fight corruption at all levels of the state and the private sector, including the crime of undermining economic transformation through clandestine and undemocratic means.
Incidentally, it was the attempt to weaken the NDR through the privatisation, tendering system and the Public Private Partnerships that opened the doors to the corruption that we see today, including corrupting some deployed cadres.
Only an efficiently executed cadre deployment policy can help government overcome such machinations and resist the efforts of a minority bloc, that to this day continues to attempt to use its access to economic and other power to abort the National Democratic Revolution.
Ntshalintshali is the general-secretary of Cosatu.
This article was first published on IOL.