The culture of cadre deployment inflicts deep-rooted economic damage to the State

The ANC's cadre deployment is a blatant scheme to bring state institutions under the control of the party

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01/07/2022 08:36:06

The culture of cadre deployment inflicts deep-rooted economic damage to the State

This opinion piece by OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage was first published on News24 on 1 July 2022

The entrenchment of a cadre deployment policy by the ANC is a blatant scheme that ensures the appointment of governing party loyalists into positions of power and decision making within the various institutions of government, to circumvent reporting lines and thereby bring the institution under the control of the political party, as opposed to the State.  

Essentially, cadre deployment creates a parallel power base to that of State administration and the Constitution, ensuring those who fulfil their respective positions of power answer first to the needs and interests of the party and second to the people whom they are employed to serve. 

Cadre deployment was not new to Jacob Zuma’s appointment as president of the ANC in 2007. It has been a well-entrenched ANC policy since the dawn of democracy in 1994.  The only difference is that during the Mandela and Mbeki administrations, it was not as blatant and was better managed through the appointment of people with qualifications and credentials to do the job. However, when Zuma came into power, the policy was highly engaged and elevated to ensure a plundering of the public purse at epic proportions.

Public servants see as those at the top do

From many in senior public administration positions, to Members of Parliament, down to the smallest municipalities and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the mantra of “ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for your party” rung loud and clear. The necessary qualifications and experience guidelines for positions were replaced with degrees of pliability and influence, to maximise the party patronage strategy.  

Through this mechanism, tenders and procurement on behalf of the state are manipulated to increase the price tag significantly, to channel funds to the ruling party, its members, families and companies or agents loyal to them. The facilitators and middlemen line up, sometimes three to four layers deep, to get their slice of the pie, while the contractor appointed to do the job often has little or zero experience to build or provide the required infrastructure or services. Low and behold, it is not uncommon to find construction sites abandoned and the contractor missing in action, having been paid in full before a square metre of construction has started. 

Greasing the palms of politicians grinds down the wheels of the economy  

For the past 15 years and still to this day, we have largely been paying between three and five times the price we should for road construction, RDP houses, schools, clinics and many services rendered to the state. Ineptitude, collusion and sheer corruption has ensured that society was robbed blind by cadres deployed to serve the party agenda. Over 1 000 locomotives were unnecessarily ordered from China at the gross expense of R54 billion. Two new power stations with a combined budget of R145 billion are five years behind schedule at a cost to the state of nearly three times the budget. The 186km Gauteng Freeway upgrade cost R18 billion, instead of R8 billion. These are just a few examples of the extent of misspending at a national level, and it gets significantly worse when multiplied through the provincial offices and hundreds of municipalities at local government level, where examples of make-shift scaffold seating alongside a weed patch being palmed off as a R15 million stadium are a dime a dozen.

Pliable cadres before job fitness

A common practice within the cadre deployment agenda is to appoint underqualified people with little expertise, which makes them amenable to influence. Enter the need for consultants with lots of them, often connected crony consultants, appointed to do the job that the government official was appointed to do. The Auditor-General has reported that last year, our municipalities collectively spent almost R1.3 billion on consultants. 

It’s no surprise that many of our municipalities and SOEs have collapsed, when people with book-keeping diplomas are put in charge of a municipality’s financial management, or a plumbing diploma will suffice for the position of a municipal engineer, or a secondary school teacher’s diploma with no related industry experience will suffice as the chairperson of a national airline, and a highly experienced top performing minister of finance is replaced by an unknown, inexperienced MP backbencher.

Some economists have calculated the cost of state capture to be around R1.5 trillion over the term of the Jacob Zuma administration. Aside from the billions of rand diverted into the pockets of politicians and their cronies, additional costly consequences arise from: additional interest-bearing debt to bail out our SOEs; the loss of employees with skills, expertise and institutional knowledge; the loss of planning for future developments; and the slashed maintenance budgets that lead to crumbling infrastructure, sewage running down our streets and into our rivers. 

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s state capture commission report reflects significantly on the negative impact and unlawful conduct of the ANC’s cadre deployment policy, about which he says “cadre deployment violates section 195 of the Constitution, which stipulates that appointments in the public service must be based on competence, objectivity [and] fairness”. Furthermore, he states that the section covering the Public Service Commission “provides that public appointments must be independent and impartial, and that they must take place without favour, fear or prejudice”.

The long and short of cadre deployment is the demise of service delivery, which is the major catalyst for the diminishing trust in government, leading to dwindling investments, higher unemployment, growing social issues and heightened poverty. The vicious spiral toward a failed state sets in and every day this issue is not addressed, the hole gets deeper for the next administration to address. 

To take South Africa forward, we need to introduce the Zondo commission’s recommendations pertaining to cadre deployment. We need the most experienced and qualified people in key positions, regardless of political affiliation, and we needed them now. We have enough money collected though our various taxes to take South Africa into high growth and improved levels of prosperity, but if only it is spent on the needs of the people, not the party.