Loyalty valued above competence by ANC – IRR’s Sara Gon

A cynic can perhaps be forgiven for wondering when ruling parties in South Africa will learn how crucial to efficient government the separation between Party and State is. Throughout history the most memorable Statesmen (and women), have put the interests of their countries above those of their parties. What FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela did was statesman-like, given the civic upheaval the nation faced and the fierce collegial opposition they braved. Unfortunately, their predecessors and successors did not follow their example. Whether or not we are currently in a crisis is the subject of vigorous debate, but the ANC’s continued policy of cadre deployment undercuts any reforms President Cyril Ramaphosa is after. That’s because, as Sara Gon, Head of Strategic Engagement at the Institute for Race Relations argues, it breeds incompetence and neglect, the harbingers of corruption. When a ruling party appoints people based purely on their loyalty to it and not on merit or commitment to public service, you’re asking for serious trouble. Trouble like Gon outlines here in what would be pure satire were it not so demonstrably true. Story courtesy of the Daily Friend. – Chris Bateman

Cadre deployment means there’s no ‘dustbin’ for incompetents

By Sara Gon*

It’s trite that a fundamental enabler of our huge levels of corruption, ineptitude and failure in the public sector is the cadre deployment policy of the African National Congress (ANC).

Sara Gon

This strategy might resonate in the hollow echo chamber of Marxist/Leninist theory, but it serves no ordinary citizen well; on the contrary, it is guaranteed to be detrimental.

The ANC, host to its South African Communist party (SACP) parasite, may well persist in pursuing it as an article of faith even while it is to the detriment of the people of South Africa whom it is duty bound to serve.

Both the belief in and the practice of cadre deployment have been proved a failure. The people are being ill-served and the process is unlawful.

One can hardly expect any accountability, transparency, responsiveness and objectivity in the delivery of services to the public if a host of deployed cadres is marching to a different tune in the course of their daily duties. The government is constitutionally bound to do the best for the people; we now know that cadre employment cannot do this.

In Vuyo Mlokoti v Amathole District Municipality and Mlamli Zenzile, unreported, Eastern Cape Division case no1428/2008 (de Havilland), the High Court declared cadre deployment by the ANC in the public administration illegal and unconstitutional. Leave to appeal was refused and no petition to appeal against this finding was ever launched.

Cadre deployment comprises two elements:

  • The appointment by the ANC of a loyalist to circumvent public reporting lines and thus bring the institution under ANC rather than state control; and
  • The creation of a parallel power-structure to the constitution, through which the party advances its own interests ahead of the public’s.

Tenderpreneurship and Black Economic Empowerment serve to grease the wheels of cadre deployment.

Cadres are crucial because they put the party first. So, even though socialism as a political philosophy has failed, putting the party at the centre of national life as a means to maintain power has not.

Read also: Message to Ramaphosa: The country before ANC unity – Ben Turok

Cadre deployment is a merry-go-round from which we can never escape. This is clearly if unintentionally illustrated in the removal of eThekwini Metro (including Durban) mayor Zandile Gumede.

This much is clear from the News24 report: ‘“It’s not about court cases” – KZN ANC on why Zandile Gumede, others were “redeployed”’.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli denied that the axing of the eThekwini and Msunduzi executive committees was prompted by court cases against prominent leaders like Gumede.

Instead, said Ntuli, the redeployments were motivated by a need to address service delivery issues identified by the provincial working committee (PWC) in ‘distressed’ municipalities in the province.

News24 reported that ‘embattled’ Gumede and Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo would be asked to step down and be redeployed.

Based on a report presented to it by the Provincial Working Committee (PWC), the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) acknowledged that the Msunduzi and eThekwini municipalities, where Njilo and Gumede were in charge, ‘required urgent attention’.

‘All ANC members serving as exco members in the eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities would be redeployed with immediate effect,’ Ntuli said, adding all vacancies would have to be filled within seven days.

Read also: ANC’s Durban corruption probe looking lame – analysis

Then Ntuli tried to give the reason for the mass redeployment: ‘Look, we are not removing comrade Gumede on the basis of the court case. If that was the logic, why did we remove the exco and mayor of Msunduzi? There is no court case. The decision to redeploy and remove her is purely and solely on the basis of our assessment on the state of the municipality,’ he explained.

The recognition of poor performance is important and admirable. But what about the criminal allegations? The investigation into Gumede went on for months. Gumede was on ‘special leave’ for months pending the outcome of the investigation during which she was on paid suspension. Gumede is currently out on R50,000 bail on corruption charges related to a R208m Durban Solid Waste tender. It seems odd, therefore, that this played no role in her removal.

Of course it did: as sure as night follows day, incompetence and neglect are precursors to corruption. However, Gumede is powerful in the province; she has ties to former president Jacob Zuma.

Ntuli probably wasn’t aware that his seemingly benign comments about the reasons for ‘redeployment’ go to the heart of the ANC’s unavoidable performance failures.

In explaining the reasons for the officials’ redeployment, Ntuli brought glaringly to the fore the reason why the ANC cannot self-correct and therefore can’t change South Africa’s fortunes: Gumede et al are ‘not fired because the ANC doesn’t have a dustbin for its members’.

As anyone with any experience in the private sector knows, whether commercial or non-profit, if you don’t change in order to survive and thrive, you die. You don’t cast anyone into a ‘dustbin’; you dismiss people if they commit serious misconduct or perform poorly; and you retrench people when you need to save costs and/or restructure.

Ntuli goes on: ‘It’s not that this comrade is completely incapable of doing anything. There is nobody like that, it’s a question of comrades not being placed in the responsibility and with the collective that complement each other in terms of the qualities, experience and attitude toward their work.

‘So, our view is that the current composition as it is now has not been able to be helpful to steer the two cities in the direction that is desirable. We need to dismantle that,’ he said.

You have to love the complete trashing of Gumede’s abilities in ‘(it’s) not that this comrade is completely incapable of doing anything’.

‘Over the past few months leading up to the last national general elections, many of our people expressed deep-seated concerns about the state and quality of service delivery provided by some of our municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal.

‘These concerns ranged from issues such as water provision, road infrastructure, housing, refuse removal and of course allegations pertaining to matters of fraud and corruption,’ said Ntuli.

The truth is that Gumede et al performed terribly badly – the corruption is the cherry on the top.

But redeploying defies all organisational logic unless there really is a job the deployee is capable of doing. Yet, if the ANC has evidence on the balance of corruption, she must be dismissed; no alternative employment must be available.

If Gumede was not just incompetent, but just didn’t care or do what was required of her, sending her to damage another municipality makes the ANC culpable for her failures.

Gumede’s failures are like a shopping list of failures:

  • lack of capacity to raise sufficient revenue due to poor systems and a lack of proper planning;
  • inability to use municipal grants intended to complement revenue to speed up service delivery due to poor co-ordination;
  • use of sections of the Municipal Finance Management Act to make procurements inconsistent with provincial treasury conditions;
  • a sustained pattern of wrongdoing and bad decisions taken in certain municipalities with no consequences for management applied; and
  • acting outside the ambit of the law and being unethical.

In the real world, these people would be dismissed and never get a job in government again. In the ANC’s world, they’ll be recycled to perpetuate incompetence and corruption, because the ANC doesn’t have a ‘dustbin’ for members.

  • Sara Gon is the head of strategic engagement at the IRR. If you like what you have just read, become a Friend of the IRR if you aren’t already one by SMSing your name to 32823 or clicking here. Each SMS costs R1.’ Terms & Conditions Apply.