The ANC is running scared over the growing public outcry against cadre deployment. That much is clear from Paul Mashatile’s tortured defence of this evil system (“Cadre deployment is still required for transformation”, April 28).

It is also obvious from ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa’s testimony thus far in front of the state capture commission. Despite his claim to the contrary at the outset of his testimony, Ramaphosa has spent much of his time in front of the commission defending the indefensible system of cadre deployment.

The Zondo commission has heard years of evidence on how ANC cadre deployment created the mechanism that enabled the Guptas and their avaricious associates to loot SA to the edge of oblivion. The commission has also heard how cadre deployment gives the ANC the ability to confer unconstitutional advantages on its chosen candidates for powerful positions, thereby preventing the appointment of skilled people purely because they are not “loyal enough” to the ANC’s ideology.

The result stares us in the face every day in the form of broken roads, a broken economy and broken dreams.

Under renewed pressure from the DA, which recently gazetted our intention to introduce the End Cadre Deployment Bill in parliament, and from more and more South Africans who understand that cadre deployment is the foundation of corruption and incompetence, Mashatile and Ramaphosa turned to obfuscation to defend this evil system. During his testimony Ramaphosa deliberately blurred the distinction between political appointments and civil service appointments.

It is indeed standard practice the world over for politicians to appoint a small group of political advisers and spokespeople, whose terms of office end when their political boss is fired by the voters. But in successful societies the ability of politicians to influence appointments does not extend into the domain of professional civil servants such as directors-general, heads of department and the CEOs of state-owned enterprises, who are instead appointed on the basis of merit.

In prosperous societies, there is thus a defined wall that separates political appointees, who make policy, from professional civil servants who implement policy. Ramaphosa should know this. In May 2016, while he was busy covering up as deputy president for Jacob Zuma, our own Public Service Commission released a study on the appointment processes followed by eight states that had achieved developmental success in recent decades. Its conclusion was unambiguous: “Insulation [of the civil service] is one of the characteristics of developmental states” with civil service appointments “more an administrative rather than a political function.”

ANC cadre deployment has empowered Ramaphosa’s party to dismantle the wall that is supposed to separate political appointments from professional public service positions. The result is that everyone from directors-general to municipal managers in ANC-run municipalities are appointed on the basis of political patronage rather than merit.

In the midst of Ramaphosa’s doubling down on cadre deployment the good news is that in the history of political development SA is not alone in having a president who views the civil service as his own political fiefdom. At one time or another every developed country we know confronted a similar situation where political elites abused and corrupted the civil service to serve their personal political interests rather than the interests of the country.

But from Germany to the UK, Japan and South Korea, their societies eventually mobilised against the governing elite to force them to give up the control they held over the civil service. Most famously, the UK had the Northcote-Trevelyan Report, and the US had the Pendleton Act. We similarly need to seize the opportunity created by the Zondo commission to eradicate cadre deployment.

We even have an example right here at home of what is possible without cadre deployment. Perhaps the single most important factor that explains the success of the DA-run Western Cape in the midst of such ferocious national decline is that the DA does not have a cadre deployment committee. Civil service positions in the Western Cape government, from heads of department all the way down, are filled on the basis of open and competitive selection processes that are based purely on merit.

As we’ve seen in the Western Cape, the era of state capture will end on the day cadre deployment dies. But Ramaphosa has made it clear that he is, in his own words, “a party man” who has no interest in building a DA-style capable state. South Africans will have to do it for him. We need to mobilise in support of the Zondo commission’s efforts to expose ANC cadre deployment for the damage it has wrought. We need to compel parliament to pass the End Cadre Deployment Bill.

Above all we need to punish the likes of Ramaphosa and Mashatile at the ballot box for their refusal to put the needs of the country before the greed of their party.

• Schreiber, a DA MP, is shadow public service & administration minister.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.