The Deployment Of Party Cadres In The Public Administration

by | Jan 10, 2010 | Public Service | 0 comments

Gwede Mantashe’s concerns about our “governance model” in which directors general serve “at the mercy of ministers” are timely. He has wisely opened a necessary debate. As Chair of the SACP and Secretary General of the ANC, he is well placed to ensure that the “recipe for disaster” he correctly perceives is averted. President Zuma’s subsequent highlighting of the need to revisit cadre deployment practices of the ANC during his 8th January speech at the celebrations in Kimberley shows that Mantashe in not alone and that the need for transformation of outmoded deployment practices is being taken seriously.
It has long been the policy of the ANC led alliance, which has governed SA since 1994, that safe party hands should be placed on all of what it calls “the levers of power” in society. This is with a view to establishing a hegemonic form of control of the state which is startlingly at odds with the notion of multi-party democracy under the rule of law which is at the heart of our new constitutional dispensation, ushered in when freedom finally dawned in SA. The “unity in diversity” contemplated in the Constitution and “hegemonic control” make strange bedfellows. The latter is however one of the central tenets of the “national democratic revolution” which the ANC pursues; so it is particularly refreshing that these matters are now being aired by the alliance’s top leadership. “Cadre deployment” is one of the methods by which the ANC led alliance achieves the goals of its “revolution”. This “revolution” is neither national, nor democratic (in the constitutional sense), nor a revolution, in that the alliance in government (at national level and virtually everywhere else except the Western Cape at provincial level and Cape Town at city level) should have no need to pursue a revolution when it is able, by its democratic majority and through peaceful non-revolutionary means to bring about the changes in policy desired by the people who voted for it.
In South Africa’s post 1994 constitutional democracy the ANC dominated tripartite alliance has consistently utilized the practice of cadre deployment in the public administration. At present the ANC, SACP and COSATU co-operate closely, albeit somewhat fractiously, at all levels of government. Of course, cadre deployment can work, provided competent cadres are chosen. Therein lies the rub.
Many senior civil servants are overtly members of the ANC and help keep its structures in place by running branches and canvassing support for ANC policies in their spare time. One director general, Jimmy Manyi, even heads a lobby group, without due regard for the conflict of interests this involves. The only public servant with original constitutionally conferred policy making powers, Menzi Simelane, our National Director of Public Prosecutions, goes about his work on the basis that he is deployed by his party to implement its vision for the National Prosecuting Authority with scant regard for the independence he is constitutionally required to bring to bear by functioning “without fear, favour or prejudice”.
The blurring of the bright lines between party and state through public service “cadre deployment”, which the High Court has already struck down as illegal, has prejudicial consequences for the promotion of constitutionalism. William Gumede, author and learned analyst and all things ANC, has pleaded publicly for the modernization or adaptation of the ANC’s cadre deployment system, suggesting that our new Planning Commission will fail if this is not done. He points out that the cadre deployment committees of the ANC which function at national, provincial and local levels are riven with factionalism. This leads to less than satisfactory outcomes when the favorites of the dominant faction at any given time are not the best, or even appropriately, qualified candidates. The party structures elbow aside the legally created systems for the appointment of personnel in the public administration and the undermining of those who are supposed to be in authority is then likely to occur, and does. The appointees regard themselves as the deployed cadres of the ANC rather than public servants and do not answer to anyone other than the alliance deployment committee that appointed them. Many mayors and even premiers have learned this, to their detriment. This is the very phenomenon that the President wishes to address by keeping party political office bearers out of municipalities except as mayors and councillors. The fact that cadre deployment continues after the High Court has characterized it as illegal and unconstitutional is indicative of how far the ANC has strayed from the rule of law and the constitutional requirements for good governance.
The public administration provided for in the Constitution should exist to render services to all people in a manner which is impartial, fair, equitable and without bias. [s 195]. It must loyally execute the lawful policies of the government of the day [s 197]. Everybody, including directors general, is entitled to fair labour practices [s 23]. Good human resource management and career development practices must be cultivated for public servants [s 195]. These requirements are the antithesis of the ANC’s cadre deployment model of governance which is itself inconsistent with binding constitutional principles. These considerations may have prompted Mantashe’s warning and the presidential admonition that senior party political office bearers should not be employed in local government structures.
While it is encouraging that persons as prominent as the President and the Secretary General of the ANC have expressed concerns about the practice of cadre deployment, it is up to the public of South Africa to claim its entitlement to accountable government in which constitutionally guaranteed human and other rights are upheld. A sound constitution is useless unless it is fully applied in the daily lives of all of the people and the institutions of state bound by it.
At the root of many of the problems facing our country at present is a lack of appreciation of the difference between party and state. The perpetuation of the “cadre deployment” practices after they have been declared illegal is intolerable. The constitutionally compliant exercise of powers of the public administration ought to be aimed at improving the lot of all people. Impartial public servants should be a given, not an exception. “Cadre deployment” should be discontinued forthwith and voluntarily rather than by way of further litigation.
We need to put accountability and responsiveness to the needs of all people first in the debates on our “governance model” and on the manner in which personnel are deployed at all levels of the public administration. If we have all due respect for the constitutional framework outlined above, the outcome of the debate opened by Mantashe could promote effective and efficient service delivery by the public administration. Mantashe will be remembered as a fine patriot, a superb administrator and a thoroughly innovative communist. The carbuncle that is cadre deployment will be excised at the President’s urging and our land will flourish with good cadres taking their rightful place alongside colleagues in the public administration, also appointed on merit, to serve the public in a manner which is responsive to the needs of the people and truly accountable.
Paul Hoffman SC
January 2010

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