Carol Paton Editor at large
President Cyril Ramaphosa appears to testify before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on April 28 2021. Picture: THEMBA HADEBE/REUTERS
President Cyril Ramaphosa appears to testify before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on April 28 2021. Picture: THEMBA HADEBE/REUTERS

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is appearing before the Zondo Commission on Wednesday, has defended the ANC’s policy of deployment of its members into the public service, which he says is an important part of implementing the ruling party’s mandate.

Ramaphosa, who is speaking as president of the ANC, also insisted that there is abundant evidence that the ANC is determined to clean up its act and the excesses that happened under state capture will never occur again.

In his opening statement to the commission, Ramaphosa was asked to specifically address the issues of cadre deployment and party political funding, both regarded as key drivers of corruption and state capture. The ANC deployment committee is chaired by the ANC’s deputy president — a position Ramaphosa occupied when state capture took hold.

While conceding that, at times, people had been appointed to positions for which they were not qualified, Ramaphosa said that the political deployment of party members into the civil service was practised widely by many governments in the world for good reason. Deployment was not inconsistent with public servants carrying out their duties in a fair, balanced and non-partisan manner, he said.

“It should be noted that the deployment of cadres to strategic positions is not unique to the ANC. It is practised in various forms and through various mechanisms — even if not always acknowledged as such — by other political parties in SA and in other countries.

“In our view, cadre deployment has acquired such prominence in part because of the perspective that there should be no political interference in the selection of people who work in the public sector. However, international practice suggests a more nuanced approach to this matter,” he said.

Ramaphosa quoted a 2007 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development paper on public governance that states “political involvement in administration is essential for the proper functioning of a democracy”.

“It is the ANC’s view that the practice of cadre deployment should not be inconsistent with the principles of fairness, transparency and merit in the appointment of individuals to public entities. Cadre deployment cannot be faulted in principle; it is a common feature of democratic practice around the world. But we would concede that there are weaknesses in its practical implementation that make the case for greater clarity, both within political parties and the state,” he said.

Ramaphosa echoed the evidence of ANC chair Gwede Mantashe who said that “in identifying suitable candidates for positions in public entities, the ANC does not seek to circumvent the established and often legally mandated processes for the appointment of individuals to these positions. Candidates are still expected to submit their applications, meet the necessary requirements and be subjected to the normal processes of recruitment, selection and appointment”.

However, even with these requirements, there were “several instances” where individuals appointed to positions may not have been ‘fit for purpose’ or may not have had the necessary experience or qualifications.

“The ANC 54th National Conference recognised this problem and resolved that ‘the merit principle’ must apply in the deployment to senior appointments, based on legislated prescripts and in line with the minimum competency standards,” he said.

Ramaphosa is appearing before the commission for two days in his capacity as ANC president and again for two days at the end of May in his capacity as president of the country.

patonc@businesslive.co.za

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