09 October 2022 – 16:29

David Lewis makes good points regarding the well-documented abuse of the overconcentration of power in the hands of the president (“Curb the president’s powers of appointment to avoid state capture in future”, October 6).

In so doing he is in good company with Dikgang Moseneke, a former deputy chief justice, and Willie Hofmeyr, a retired deputy national director of public prosecutions.

The latter has wryly proposed a “commission for the appointment and dis-appointment of senior officials”. It is likely to work better than the Judicial Service Commission does if it keeps politicians off the playing fields of personnel selection and discipline. Lewis is right to suggest that HR skills and technical expertise are the relevant criteria for appointees to such a body.

However, the attempt by Lewis to put lipstick on the pig known as “ANC cadre deployment in the public administration and [state-owned enterprises] SOEs” must be deprecated. It is not just that the Zondo state capture commission has recommended the demise of this pernicious practice. There is binding judicial precedent for the proposition that cadre deployment of this kind is illegal and unconstitutional.

Even the most cursory reading of section 195 of the constitution reveals that good human resource management, accountability and the promotion of professional ethics are among the values and principles applicable, in binding terms, to the public administration and SOEs.

Those deployed cadres who serve the tenets of the national democratic revolution rather than the public are in a bind because they feel beholden to cadre deployment committees and not to the advancement of the public weal by loyally executing the lawful policies of the government of the day.

The appointment of persons on policy considerations is not precluded, but it should be regarded as the exception, not the rule. Untold damage has been done by limiting the personnel choices available to the ranks of only those who happen to be loyal ANC cadres to the exclusion of those who are not. A political party with a total of about 1-million members cannot possibly harbour the skills and talents needed to run a country of more than 60-million people effectively and efficiently.

Even the ANC pretends to make mere recommendations for the consideration of those lawfully required to make appointments of staff. Yet the minutes made public by the state capture commission reveal that the ANC’s recommendations are binding. This farce must end.

Conflicts of interest abound when deployed cadres are required to serve the public and the party. Striving to secure hegemonic control of all the levers of power in society is what the revolution is all about; a multiparty constitutional democracy under the rule of law is what the constitution requires and with it the separation of powers and suitable checks and balances on the exercise of power.

Without a truly professional, honest and merit-selected public administration the vulnerability to state capture in future will remain.

Paul Hoffman, SC
Director, Accountability Now

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