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Cadre deployment: An injustice to South Africans

by Zahid Jadwat

The Democratic Alliance (DA) wants Fikile Mbalula, SG of the African National Congress (ANC) jailed for contempt of court over cadre deployment records. [Picture: SA People]


The public service in South Africa is anything but efficient. The snaking queues outside home affairs offices, the patients sitting in the dirty corridors of overcrowded hospitals, and the troubles at licensing offices are glaring signs of this. The incompetence stems from the African National Congress’s (ANC) cadre deployment policy.

The ruling party and its biggest rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA) are at loggerheads over what could arguably be described as one of the most disastrous policies of the ANC in government. An injustice of note. Now, the DA wants the ANC’s secretary general, Fikile Mbalula, handcuffed for contempt of court. This, because the ANC failed to make its cadre deployment records public – in defiance of a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

But what is the cadre deployment policy and why is it so disastrous? “Cadre deployment is aimed at giving the ANC hegemony over the government and society,” writes Dr Anthea Jeffrey, head of policy research at the Institute for Race Relations (IRR), in her book: Countdown to Socialism.

“It is a vital instrument of revolutionary control, for it allows the ANC’s most senior leadership to control the organisation, the organisation to control the state, and the state to control the whole of society”.

In a nutshell: the party should be able to control appointees in critical spaces. According to the ANC’s own ‘Cadre Policy and Deployment Strategy’, adopted in 1998, the party must “strengthen its leadership” over parastatals, statutory bodies and “all other sectors of social activity – including the economy, education, science and technology, sports, recreation, arts and culture, mass popular organisations … and mass communication”.


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The hasty transformation of the public sector after apartheid, aided by the cadre deployment, engendered the rapid loss of valuable skills and experience offered by public servants seen as belonging to the ancien regime. The ruling party initially expected the public service to be 50% Black by 1999. Later, this became 75%. The Department of Public Service and Administration later noted a near-80% turnover in senior management personnel between 1994 and 2007.

The loss of skills has had deleterious effects. The public service has been crippled, rampant with corruption and poor quality standards. Parastatals like Eskom and the Post Office are performing miserably (if at all) and basic services like policing, water and electricity are becoming more and more unreliable.

While Jeffrey argued that chief among the intentions of cadre deployment was to further the agenda of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) – a socialist-inspired ANC policy, those to the left believe otherwise.

“The ANC is trying to create a class of Black capitalists as part of its commitment to an architecture for the maintenance of neocolonial and neoliberal capitalism in this country,” said Mametlwe Sebei from the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP).


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While both may agree insofar as the policy is meant to further the aims of a ‘revolution’, the key difference is how it has been implemented. While Jeffrey holds that it was implemented to “bypass and subvert” the core principles of liberal democracy, Sebei maintains mediocre cadres have been deployed to facilitate privatisation. Two very divergent views.

Said Sebei, “They deploy people who would be able to serve that agenda and not a cadre of the revolution. The ANC is not deploying the cadre of the revolution, the ANC is deploying mediocre, corrupt people and of course, thieves, to facilitate that.”

But this could hardly be true. The ANC’s own documents have consistently labelled capital as the chief enemy of the NDR. It has implemented policies and created an environment not conducive to business and growth. Privatisation is nowhere near the top of the agenda.

Finally, his assertion that the “policy framework of neoliberal capitalism, privatisation and outsourcing … brings bribery, corruption [and] the hollowing out of public services” is flawed. Note the crippled state of the public service, barely able to deliver and severely incapacitated, compared to the efficient private sector.

No clearer example exists than the healthcare sector. A staggering 80% of public clinics and hospitals fail to comply with basic healthcare norms and standards. Hospitals are overstretched and run out of essentials such as medicine more often than not. In stark comparison, around 19 million South Africans (32%) enjoy access to world-class private healthcare through medical aid. Many more could, but, again, government policies have restrained the private sector.

Cadre deployment has crippled the state. It has contributed to the inefficiency of the public sector by hastily driving out skilled, experienced personnel. It has filled positions with inexperienced, incompetent and connected individuals to drive a party agenda over the interests of the public. No greater injustice has been perpetrated against the people of the Republic since 1994.

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