High time ANC's conflation of party, state ends

The ANC in the Eastern Cape will elect new leaders in December 2021.
The ANC in the Eastern Cape will elect new leaders in December 2021.
Image: SUPPLIED

The commission of inquiry into state capture has lifted the veil on how government appointments are made, honing in on the ANC’s powerful deployment committee which continues to play an unhealthily powerful role behind the scenes.

Armed with minutes from this committee’s meetings, evidence leader Paul Pretorius depicted the deployment committee as a mightily powerful entity that meddles in public sector appointments, including those ostensibly made by cabinet ministers.

The minutes indicate the committee’s reach even extends to making recommendations about judicial appointments to the highest courts in the land, despite this being the prerogative of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

This points to the extent to which the ANC governs our country outside public scrutiny and raises troubling questions about its commitment to democratic SA’s institutions such as parliament and the JSC.

Appearing before the commission, President Cyril Ramaphosa, a previous head of the ANC deployment committee, sought to downplay the committee’s power while defending the practice of deploying cadres.

He said the committee recommends, and argued that deployment was a common international practice which “cannot be faulted in principle” though there were “weaknesses in its practical implementation”.

His equivocation is unconvincing. If there ever was justification for deployment it is long gone, eroded by mounting evidence that the practice might well have served ANC elites, but it has been a disaster for our country, leading to corruption and maladministration from local government level all the way up to the bloated boards of parastatals.

Patronage and deployment lie at the core of failed municipalities, apathetic government departments, poor service delivery and faltering state-owned enterprises.

Ramaphosa’s platitudes notwithstanding, cadre deployment is central to what researchers term the ANC’s “shadow state” — the way the party secretly governs SA, and deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo was right to suggest to Ramaphosa that if the ANC sought to influence government appointments, it should do so transparently.

We would go further and suggest it is high time that the ANC’s conflation of party and state ends.

Good governance requires that the appointment of state officials is made fairly and transparently with the interests of citizens, not political parties, the paramount concern.

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