Cadre deployment: A seminal moment for us all - News24

1 July 2022 - News24 readers are indebted to Gwede Mantashe and Siya Khumalo for expanding the conversation around the African National Congress' policy and practice of cadre deployment. ("Mantashe slams Zondo, says apartheid officials would still be in charge without cadre deployment" and "If DA uses tone-sensitive communication, it can get buy-in on cadre deployment stance", both 25 June).

Terence Corrigan

News24 readers are indebted to Gwede Mantashe and Siya Khumalo for expanding the conversation around the African National Congress' policy and practice of cadre deployment. ("Mantashe slams Zondo, says apartheid officials would still be in charge without cadre deployment" and "If DA uses tone-sensitive communication, it can get buy-in on cadre deployment stance", both 25 June). 

This is especially apposite in light of the Zondo Commission's finding on cadre deployment, its illegality and counter-constitutionality, the practical damage it has done to the country, and its contribution to state capture. Following this reading, the practice is wholly without justification or merit.

Mantashe's defensiveness is in line with the stance of the ANC, including that of President Ramaphosa before the commission. He offers a flurry of objections, conflation and rhetoric. Cadre deployment is equivalent to affirmative action, cadre deployment puts in place competent people (you can mention all of them, your Trevor Manuels, all of them who are their darlings, and what do they say about them?), and what about those business tycoons who manage more than one company – whatever relevance that may hold. If there were mistakes, and Brian Molefe was definitely not one of those, this was really just a failing in an otherwise unobjectionable part of governance. In this view, cadre deployment is the political norm. "Everyone deploys."

Absent is any substantive attempt to refute most of what the commission actually said.

Besides, he shrugs, this is the report of a commission, not the judgment of a court.

One can't help asking if this is a signal that as far as the ruling party is concerned, nothing needs fundamentally to change in this respect. Cadre deployment might be done better – as Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has pledged – but it will continue to be done. 

Much the same can be read from the president's words. (The commission's report notes that he tried to spin the practice by claiming that it adds another level of scrutiny and accountability to appointments – by implication, if South Africa is in trouble now, things will be catastrophic without the guiding hand of the deployment committee.)

Khumalo's observations 

This makes Khumalo's observations important. His concern seems to be that the Democratic Alliance's court case against the practice needs to explained better, and that an inherent weakness in what they are proposing is that it will be unenforceable. "Once the law says that a person can't hold a political position and be a public servant at the same time, the ANC could simply draw from its military and intelligence history to create dog-whistle codewords for concealing and signalling positions and operations," he writes.

He is quite right there. If the ANC remains committed to deployment – and all indications are that it is – a mere legal judgment will not halt it. 

Nevertheless, if successful – and the Zondo Commission provides an indication that it will be successful – the DA's case will provide at least some legal force to taking action against it. Have no illusions, this would still be an uphill struggle. A court judgment already exists – Voyu Mlokoti vs Amathole District Municipality and Mlamli Zenzile – that makes it clear that cadre deployment is unlawful. Yet that had a very limited impact.

In this respect, Khumalo makes another very significant point: "Most people's instinctive understanding of power would have them ask: what's the point of getting into power if you can't reward party loyalists with positions?"

It's by no means clear that this is true. Opinion polling often turns up findings that defy conventional wisdom. However, to the extent that he is saying that there is a widespread acceptance that this is a normal part of politics, he may be correct.

Little criticism of idea 

Cadre deployment was for many years accepted in this way by many of the country's thought leaders. There was remarkably little criticism of the idea when it surfaced in 1997. Business Day even condemned an analysis of the matter by the then Democratic Party as being "guilty of McCarthyism", and defended cadre deployment on the basis that "there are many democracies where senior public service appointees openly support the incumbent". A few years later, Richard Calland's very informative Anatomy of South Africa, referred to the deployment strategy and deployment structures, and to how this or that member of the party had been "deployed" to his or her position. 

All of this helped to normalise something whose violation of the country's constitutional order should have been apparent from the start.

Indeed, since both Mantashe and Khumalo refer to "transformation", it is worth noting just how this was defined by the ANC in 1998: "Transformation of the state entails, first and foremost, extending the power of the NLM over all levers of power: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals, and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on."

Note that the stated intention of cadre deployment was the expansion of party control over institutions whose non-partisanship was explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution.

Question confronting SA 

And so, to answer Khumalo's point directly, it will be not only for the DA, but for South Africa's people to decide what sort of state and what sort of governance and what sort of future they want. It will be not only for the DA to establish the illegality of cadre deployment before a court, but for the voters and citizens of the country to demand the sort of governance that is consonant with the Constitution and that offers the prospect of the developmental use of South Africa's institutions and resources. Cadre deployments have undermined this, and will continue to do so.

An account of America's early history (perhaps apocryphal) holds that Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and philosopher, was asked what form of government had been established. His response: "A republic, if you can keep it." This is exactly the question that confronts South Africa now.


- Terence Corrigan is a project manager at the Institute of Race Relations. 

https://www.news24.com/news24/opinions/fridaybriefing/terence-corrigan-cadre-deployment-a-seminal-moment-for-us-all-20220630

© 2020 South African Institute of Race Relations
CMS Website by Juizi

Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy | PAIA Manual | Accuracy Guarantee | Sponsors & Donors

m