Anyone really interested in the concept of ‘state capture’ should be looking first and foremost at the ANC cadre deployment policy

Source: Business Live


When Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC deputy president on December 18 2012, he inherited a number of responsibilities. One them was to head the ANC’s deployment committee — the in-house party structure dedicated to selecting ANC cadres for positions in the public service, parastatals and even the private sector.

It was a position he held until he was elected ANC president on 18 December 2017.

Between December 2012 and December 2017, a great many appointments were made by the ANC to a great many critically important positions, and a significant number of them were catastrophically bad. But Ramaphosa seems to have escaped any and all responsibility for his role in the systematic hollowing out of the state under Jacob Zuma.

This piece constitutes a brief overview of the role he played and a critical appraisal of some of the high-profile appointments the ANC made during Ramaphosa’s tenure as ANC deputy president. But first, some background.

Bypassing the constitution

SA’s constitution is much-vaunted, and it does indeed have a great many strengths. But at its heart, it is weakened by a large blind spot. Any political party that wishes to bypass the separation of party and state needs only two things to achieve that end: a large majority and a totalitarian attitude towards power and control. The ANC, for well on two decades, has had both.

In 1997 the party notoriously adopted its cadre deployment policy. The 1997 resolution called for “a deployment strategy” necessary to “identify the key centres of power” in order that the party might deploy “comrades” to areas of work on behalf of the movement.

The ANC national working committee had identified the “key centres of power” within the state as “the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals, and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on”. A 2007 resolution added “the private sector” to the list.

Now, every party practices patronage and there are many positions in the state that allow for politically partisan appointments. But many others do not — certainly not “the judiciary” or Chapter Nine institutions such as “the public broadcaster”. But the ANC cared little for this distinction. Its goal was a total hegemonic hold over all state apparatus, independent or otherwise. And the defining selection criteria for the party was loyalty to the national demographic revolution, not excellence or independence.

The strategy was brutally effective. Under former president Thabo Mbeki, and on the back of a the biggest majority the ANC had ever enjoyed (69% in 2004), the party was all-powerful. It was also well-organised and internally coherent. It extended its tentacles into every element of South African public life.

This was the era of Snuki Zikalala, as the head of news at the SABC, and Lawrence Mushwana as the public protector. And it worked: the ANC’s influence over the state has never been so strong. The truth is, anyone really interested in the concept of “state capture” should be looking first and foremost as the ANC cadre deployment policy. It is ground zero. And the party has never had to account for the way in which turned the South African state into its own political play thing.

The age of chaos and nepotism

But if the ANC of Mbeki was thoughtful, deliberate, patient and focused, the ANC of Jacob Zuma was the polar opposite. Zuma was not concerned with party control but factional control, and his own faction would be put above all comers. Mbeki-ites were systematically purged and, in their place, an army of loyal but incompetent generals would be dispatched to all corners of the national administration.

The result of the devolution of the ANC’s control were chaos and self-serving nepotism. The system collapsed into anarchy, with a range of mindless zombies placed in charge of enormous budgets and vested with extraordinary power and responsibility.

In their wake, the ANC’s hegemonic influence slowly cracked and fell apart, its reputation became defined by corruption and a failure to deliver. Bankruptcy and debt became the order of the day, and party control collapsed into internal factionalism and division as the ANC’s faithful turned in on itself.

This was the age of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Riah Phiyega and Richard Mduli.

The first false dawn

Into the midst of this whirlwind Cyril Ramaphosa would arrive in 2012. Back from the wilderness, he brought with him the sort of considered reputation long since vanquished from the ANC inner circle. The great redeemer. And his election was met with wild enthusiasm: the first seeds for reformation had been planted.

Among much hyperbole, Ramaphosa would say in December 2012, “We have had President Mandela, who delivered us to freedom, President Mbeki stabilised and President Zuma has actually delivered a blueprint for the future. A blueprint to 2030. Now, that is the leadership he has shown, leading from the front.”

He revealed that “I am also going to play a key role in helping that plan to be implemented. I don’t think it is too ambitious. It is doable because it has the levers that we can put our hands on and make sure that it is implemented and what that plan will spawn is economic growth, job creation, and it will also help in so far as economic empowerment is concerned.”

He stated: “We need to go for renewal and to this end we have developed the decade of the cadre.

“The decade of the cadre also means that we have got to inculcate the most outstanding values and ethics among the members of the ANC. The education that they will be exposed to during this period is meant to chisel out precisely all those very bad tendencies.

“I know it is going to happen. We are going to get some of the best attributes coming through from our cadres, who will have total commitment to their service of SA. I believe we can do it.”

As ANC deputy president, he would oversee the ANC’s deployment committee. The decade of the cadre was in his hands. And so it is worth seeing what kinds of appointments were made during that time.

High ideals and empty rhetoric

Explaining his role as deputy president in an SABC interview on the eve of his election as ANC president in December 2017, Ramaphosa would say the following: “As deputy president, the first thing you do, you head the deployment committee.”

He described it as a “key” area and said: “We go through various areas where people need to be deployed, where we need capable people, who are going to perform a number of tasks, so that was well-streamlined”.

When it was put to him that there had been some “spectacular failures” when it came to deployment, Ramaphosa said: “You know, deployment is a risky business. When you deploy anyone you never really know how they are going to turn out, but you try to do the best you can, and we have always been guided, as a deployment committee, by wanting to deploy the best people, for the jobs that are at hand.

“And people throw around this term, ‘cadre deployment’, we have never really looked at it as a cadre-driven type of deployment; it has been more, ‘have we got the best man, best woman, for the job?’ And at times, you hit the jackpot — you deploy the best person, and they go in and they excel. And at times, you fail.”

Asked how decisions are made — how does the ANC decide “this is the person that we are going to make CEO or chairperson at SAA, for example” — Ramaphosa responded: “We go through a whole range of names, and the names are by no means just, you know, ANC people, there are a plethora of names that are brought before us. And we go through that, and we debate and discuss and in the end a proper decision is taken.

“By the way,” Ramaphosa added, “it is not deployment, you know, either in the legislature or the departments of government, it is also deployment within the ANC, in terms of putting people in the right positions. ‘Will this comrade do well in this committee, will this comrade do well in this department, within the ANC?’”

The decade of the incompetent

Ramaphosa made it all sound like a lottery, and his line about it not being “cadre-driven” was just nonsense, as the record shows. Nevertheless, if this was the man in charge of the decade of the cadre, of inculcating “the most outstanding values and ethics” among ANC members, of chiselling out all those “very bad tendencies” and ensuring that the ANC “deploys the best people, for the jobs that are at hand”, what does his record look like?

Here are a list of some of the bigger national deployments made by the ANC between December 2012 and December 2017, and how they turned out:

  • Brian Molefe: Appointed CEO of Eskom in April 2015. Resigned in November 2016 after a series of links to the Gupta family were revealed.
  • Matshela Koko: Named as acting CEO of Eskom in December 2016. Resigned in February 2018 while facing a disciplinary hearing.
  • Mxolisi Nxasana: Appointed national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) in August 2013. Resigned in May 2015 after a formal inquiry into whether he was fit to hold office.
  • Shaun Abrahams: Appointed June 2015. In August 2018, the Constitutional Court found his appointment invalid 
  • Busisiwe Mkhwebane: Appointed public protector in October 2016. Still in office but facing various ongoing processes to have her removed in the face of several court judgments damning of her findings.
  • Ben Ngubane: Appointed chair of Eskom’s board in March 2015. Resigned in June 2017 after he was named in a number of Gupta-linked controversies.
  • Zethembe Khoza: Appointed acting chair of Eskom board in June 2017. Resigned in January 2018, “in the best interests of the country”.
  • Collins Letsoalo: Appointed acting CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA in December 2015. Fired in March 2017 after he orchestrated a 350% pay hike for himself.
  • Thoko Didiza: Appointed ANC mayoral candidate for Tshwane in June 2016. Lost election after her appointment sparked a range of riots.
  • Maj-Gen Pat Mokushane: Appointed acting head of crime intelligence in June 2017. Fired in August 2018 for having a criminal record and running his own business from work.
  • Berning Ntlemeza: Appointed head of the Hawks in September 2015. Fired twice, last in September 2017 after his appointment was found to be invalid and unlawful by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Those appointments constitute the mere tip of a gigantic iceberg. Hundreds of appointments to boards, executive positions, committees and party structures were overseen by Ramaphosa, many, many of which were compromised or defined by corruption, maladministration, fake qualifications, nepotism or their unlawfulness.

A brave political student should make a more considered study of those appointment made by the ANC between December 2012 and December 2017: it will read like a telephone directory of the weak, the ineffectual, the arrogant and the power hungry. Exemplars of “outstanding values and ethics” these appointments were not.

This was the age of incompetence, not the age of the cadre. Certainly not the age of anything Ramaphosa pretended it was in December 2017.

And he sat above it all, as head of the ANC’s deployment committee. His record is disgraceful.

There is no argument in which Ramaphosa comes out well. If it is argued he was held hostage to Zuma’s will, then he willingly lent his reputation to the ANC, to rubber stamp and legitimate the destruction. If he was more than a mere surrogate, if he had some power and influence as head of that committee — as he was so quick to boast about on SABC — then he is responsible for shambles that followed

It doesn’t matter which way you cut it: Ramaphosa played a direct, pivotal and central role in the creation of the failed state Jacob Zuma oversaw. And he has escaped any and all responsibility for it. Not a single column inch has been dedicated to how it is the man who controlled the central, ideological patronage machine inside the ANC gave unto SA only destruction and decay.

That the country’s media is generally myopic and partisan in its desperate desire to play ANC heroes and villains, is now common cause. Today, Ramaphosa is the hero, so he cannot be the villain. No matter how explicit and clear cut his contribution to the decay, it simply will not be acknowledged or reported on, considered or accepted. His role in the administration of Jacob Zuma from December 2012 to December 2017 has been airbrushed. It simply never happened.

But whenever Ramaphosa takes to an interview, as he did in 2012 and 2017, the two interviews that bookended his reign of mediocrity, he is celebrated. First, for the empty rhetoric upfront; then, for the vacuous way he glosses over his own complicity, as if he was no more than in charge of a random number generator, and all that those bad appointments can be attributed to little else but horrible luck.

You get what you deserve, the saying goes. That is true for most, but not for Cyril Ramaphosa. He gets what other people imagine. In this case, a great and good leader, without a history or complicity in the crimes of his predecessor, purged of any and all responsibility. And, to cap it off, rewarded daily for his bravery, as we are told in glowing terms how he boldly goes about trying to rectify the cataclysmic mess he helped create.