The Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa

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Cadre Deployment

There seems to be much muddled thinking on the topic of cadre deployment in current political discourse. Cosatu and the ANC seem to favour it, Blade Nzimande of the SACP is out to thwart tenderpreneurs and the opposition parties are united in their condemnation of cadre deployment. President Zuma has suggested that party political office bearers should not be involved in local government - but whether he was referring to mayors and councillors or to civil servants is not entirely clear. Gwede Mantashe has said that the current system of deploying directors general is a recipe for disaster. Athol Trollip waxes eloquent in his condemnation of cadre deployment in state owned enterprises while Donald Grant, Western Cape MEC for Education, is concerned that the political advisor to the Mayor of Bitou has been irregularly "redeployed" to Ventersdorp at the expense of Bitou ratepayers.

What then is a "cadre", how are they "deployed" and why all the fuss? In the context of the debate, a cadre is best defined as a loyal member of the ANC or at least of the governing alliance which includes Cosatu and the SACP. There is much overlapping membership but not all Cosatu members are members of either political party, while all SACP members are encouraged to vote for the ANC at election time simply because the SACP chooses not to field candidates under its own banner. The appellation "cadre" harks back to the struggle era. The primary meaning of "cadre" according to the Concise Oxford dictionary is "a basic unit esp. of servicemen, forming a nucleus for expansion when necessary" secondarily, and perhaps with greater relevance "a group of activists in a communist or any revolutionary party" and "a member of such a group." Deployment is the process by which cadres are brought into effective action. Once again the primary meaning of "deploy" has a military connotation - "cause (troops) to spread out from a column into a line".

It is important to note that Cosatu has just under two million members, the ANC about one million and the SACP far fewer in a country in which there are well over 50 million inhabitants. Cadres are accordingly demographically rare, cadres suitable for key deployments even rarer.

Cadre deployment within the structures of the tripartite alliance is hardly exceptionable. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of association and political organisation. The alliance is accordingly free to deploy its cadres within party structures as it sees fit and no one should cavil at this. Deployment does have a top-down centralist flavour to it because of its military connotation and the methodology used explains why candidates for party posts are always reticent about pushing themselves forward - the ethos is that loyal cadres do what the party expects of them, not what they want to do for the party. ANC cadre deployment committees at national, provincial and local level covertly attend to the business of cadre deployment, but they do not confine their activities to party structures. Rather like the Broederbond of old, their tentacles are spread into the public service, the state owned enterprises, regulatory bodies and business activities of strategic value to the ANC.

As far as deployment in the public administration is concerned, cadre deployment has been struck down as illegal and unconstitutional. This was decided in the unchallenged decision of the Eastern Cape High Court in the case of Mlokoti v Amathole District Municipality and Another. Mr Mlokoti was not a cadre, but he was the best qualified candidate for the post of municipal manager in Queenstown. The local cadre deployment committee of the ANC did not allow this to stand in its way and deployed a cadre to take up the post. In the ensuing successful review the judge remarked that:
"Section 195 of the Constitution is also relevant, providing as it does that public administration at all levels of government be governed by the democratic values of and principles that efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted and that good human resource management and career development practices, to maximise human potential, must be cultivated."

Indeed, the Constitution has subordinated all organs of state to a new regimen of openness and fair dealing with the public. As Judge Cameron put it in Van Niekerk v Pretoria City Council:
"In short, it is expected of organs of state that they behave honourably. Their decisions and their conduct must be informed by the values of our Constitution."

The Constitution does not make any provision for cadre deployment, on the contrary, state employees are entitled to fair labour practices and to the benefit of good human resource management practices. It is not anything of the kind to leave appointment of civil servants to the devices of the cadre deployment committees of the governing elite. Opacity, cronyism and patronage displace openness, fairness and accountability when smoke filled back rooms are the venue for the appointment (deployment) of members of the public administration.

Whilst it is so that a small minority of positions in the public administration are best filled by persons politically close to the government of the day, the methods used in employing (not deploying) them can still accord with the tenets of good human resource management and career development practices. These do not include cadre deployment. Gwede Mantashe's concerns that cadre deployment of directors general in government departments is a "recipe for disaster" are real. The constant chopping and changing that accompanies political reshuffles deprives departments of proper leadership, stunts institutional memory and does not serve the common weal. Cultivation of career development is not served by cadre deployment in any shape or form, yet the Constitution requires it as a principle governing the public administration.

What then of state owned enterprises? Cadre deployment is rife; it appears that those responsible for recruiting are either beholden to cadre deployment committees or actually on them. Cope spokesman, Philip Dexter, an avowed Marxist and now Cope spokesman says, in the light of his own experiences in the field: "[Cadre deployment] has failed to work because it ended up bringing unqualified and incompetent people to positions of great influence and huge responsibility. These people end up failing to deliver services." Athol Trollip of the DA cites the expensive examples of payouts following failed cadre deployment in the sector: Joel Netshitenzhe attempts to defend cadre deployment saying: "The ANC can identify people and submit names to people who are recruiting, giving them a bigger pool, and leaving it to them to choose following the laws of the land." Why it should be necessary to "submit names" when candidates ought to be perfectly capable of applying for advertised posts themselves, he does not say. Nor is the chilling effect of an ANC endorsement of a candidate on the selection process explained by him. He points out that "inequality breeds crime" without apparently realising that cadre deployment from the ranks of the ANC exacerbates inequality and is wholly unsustainable if the numbers are taken into account. The ANC can not hope to find sufficient cadres among its members who are suitable for posts in politics, state owned enterprises, the public administration and the regulatory bodies at present littered with those described by the President as "cynical, lazy and incompetent". There is no proper basis for distinguishing illegal cadre deployment in the public administration from cadre deployment in state owned enterprises. If suitably qualified cadres want positions they should apply themselves, like everyone else. Without the party endorsement implicit in the submission of names by the ANC (as described by Netshitenzhe) they will be competing on a more level playing field. May the best candidates for the jobs be appointed.

Paul Hoffman SC
30 March 2010.

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