After ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe delivered his long opening statement to the Zondo Commission on Wednesday, Advocate Alec Freund began leading the evidence.
When Barbara Hogan, former minister of health (2008-2009) and public enterprises (2009-2010), testified to the commission in 2018, she alleged that the ANC’s deployment committee staffed the public service and state-owned entities with ANC cadres.
Mantashe stated in his affidavit that the ANC’s “immediate goal as set out in its strategies and tactics is to deepen the hold over the levers of the state”.
After some discussion as to the meaning of this, Mantashe agreed with the summing up by the commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that essentially this meant “deepen the control of the liberation movements” over the various organs of the state.
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Mantashe accepted that the public service should be non-partisan.
Freund said the Constitution provides that there shall be a sufficient non-partisan, career-orientated public service broadly representative of the SA community, which shall serve all citizens in an unbiased manner.
Mantashe could see no conflict between the principle that the public service should be non-partisan, and the express policy of the ANC to control the public service.
Mantashe explained that “we inherited a state that is run by white men”.
“The ANC had to deploy persons who understood transformative constitutionality.”
He further intimated that the ANC does not have a cadre employment policy, but a deployment policy.
Zondo asked if he was missing something, as Mantashe in his affidavit had referred to the “employment of cadres”.
Mantashe then tried to explain the distinction between cadre employment and cadre deployment.
Apparently when ‘cadre’ is used by certain parties, it means a person who lacks competence.
However, where Mantashe refers to “cadre deployment”, he means a cadre who has the necessary skills and competence.
Mantashe also explained that “cadre policy” means the development and training of cadres, and the cadre deployment strategy means to employ people in areas of greater responsibility. According to Mantashe, suitable persons are encouraged to apply for positions, “but they must go through the selection process”.
Freund failed to get a clear answer out of Mantashe as to whether cadres remained accountable to the party or to the government.
Example of unlawful process: appointing a mayor
Freund referred to the Mlokoti v Amathole District Municipality judgment, in which the court held that an unlawful process was followed in appointing its mayor.
The ANC Regional Executive Committee (REC) had overruled the process of appointing the mayor, and appointed its preferred candidate.
Freund said this case illustrates the conflict between decisions made by functionaries on the merits according to proper processes and “on the other hand the inevitable pressure that must arise from the policies which we have been talking about – that the ANC, in terms of its own policies, considers that it is appropriate to make these kinds of decisions”.
The judgment further stated that: “It is clear that the councillors of the ANC supinely abdicated to their political party their responsibility to fill the position of the municipal manager with the best qualified and best suited candidate on the basis of qualifications, suitability and with due regard to the provisions of the pertinent employment legislation as set out in paragraph 1 of the recruitment policy.
“This was a responsibility owed to the electorate as a whole and not just to the sectarian interests of their political masters.”
Mantashe rejected this: “The ANC has the right to make decisions on who serves in its structures. This cannot be unlawful.”
Zondo said he would need to know more about the judgment.
Cadre deployment in ‘the five pillars’
After 1994, the ANC shifted from “opposing apartheid colonialism to leading development, from resistance to reconstruction”.
This is according to a November 2018 ANC discussion document, which further states:
“We now pursue the struggle around five very different pillars: the state, the economy, organisational work, ideological struggle, and international work.”
Mantashe had stated in his affidavit that the 52nd ANC conference in 2007 resolved that there would be cadre deployment in each of the five pillars.
Freund asked Mantashe to explain the type of deployment of cadres to institutions with judicial functions.
Freund said that “the whole notion of employment of cadres to institutions with judicial functions carries, with respect, a sinister ring”.
Mantashe maintained his stance that competent lawyers are merely encouraged to apply for positions.
Zondo asked for clarification on what the ANC means in preparing cadres to be ready for areas of responsibility in judicial institutions.
Mantashe replied that the ANC respects the separation of power, but that “we don’t tamper with judges”.
Freund asked Mantashe to explain cadre deployment in bodies with investigative functions.
Mantashe explained that in 1994 all the investigative units were dominated by investigators from the previous era, and it was necessary to change the demographic. Freund replied that it appeared that the strategy was to also change the political affiliation. Mantashe disagreed and said that the intention was to change the demographic to a non-partisan one.
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Freund then refers to the minutes of the meeting of the ANC’s national disciplinary committee – the NDC Report – on the deployment of cadres, which noted that “deployees of the ANC should always be loyal to the organisation”.
Freund asked: surely once appointed, they should always be loyal to the ANC? And remarked that cadres who are loyal to the party cannot be non-partisan.
Mantashe explained that “non-partisanship means the ANC is sleeping and relying on luck, and not influencing any change in society”.
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The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides that the public service must loyally execute the policies of the day – and there is a tension between the party and the government if all the employees must be loyal to the organisation.
Freund raised the question as to who governs – the party or the government? The answer was unclear.
But Mantashe did state: “We want to have people in the state who know what the policies of the government are, and will loyally execute them.”
Mantashe is of the opinion that the policies of the ANC are “on trial at the commission” and remarked that any misdemeanour committed by an ANC cadre will be attributed to the party.